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Lewis Elementary students win Best of Show at Milk Carton Boat Races

by: David F. Ashton Lewis Elementary fifth-graders Charlotte Nicholson, Sydney Toops (in back) Danielle von Peger and Kate Kelly paddle “Purple Cow” to victory.

The third year of the revived Dairy Farmers of Oregon Milk Carton Boat Races - held Sunday, June 12, at Westmoreland Park's casting pond - drew both silly and serious boating competitors.

As the event's name implies, the only flotation permitted for the boats, regardless of size or style, is milk cartons or plastic jugs. It's up to the ingenuity of the boat builders - and countless rolls of waterproof duct tape - to make interesting looking and pond-worthy boats out of them.

The race had been Portland Rose Festival event from 1973 to 2002. The Dairy Farmers of Oregon reintroduced the Milk Carton Boat Race, again part of the Rose Festival, in 2009 to celebrate National June Dairy Month, pointed out the organization's Marketing Director, Dan Cox - also the event's Race Director.

'Our pre-registrations were substantial - about 55 crews registered online. And, this year, we had more entries, partners, vendors, and spectators.'

Many people have participated in the event year after year, Cox said. 'They're learning how to improve the performance of their boats. And, we have much better creative execution of our new 'showboat' category. In terms of the speed, I'm seeing some sleek-looking racing boats.'

'Showboats' are judged for creative appeal, as their captains and crews leisurely paddle around the pond. By contrast, competition is fierce in the races, which are run in heats, featuring individual or group paddlers - only human power is allowed - in corporate, adult family/multi-rider, and kids' categories.

On the east side of the pond, Kate Kelly, Charlotte Nicholson, Sydney Toops, and Danielle Von Pegert - fifth-graders from Woodstock's Lewis Elementary School - practiced paddling their craft, 'Purple Cow', on land while they waited their turn to race.

When they got to splash their boat into the pond and race, the crew of the 'Purple Cow' did well enough in their heats to take second place in the overall Family/Multi-Rider Category for boats captained by more than one person.

And, at the at the event's conclusion, there was a second award for these kids - 'Purple Cow' was awarded 'Best of Show'.

During the races, paddling prowess proved more valuable than sleek design. In total, 79 competitors paddled the 55 boats across the big shallow concrete-lined pond.