75 teams to compete in 4th annual cardboard boat races

Scott Schimp, back, and Kyle Wood, members of the Whirlpool Corp. “Seas the Day” team, celebrate a win during the 2017 “Rock the Boat” cardboard race held at the Inn at Harbor Shores.

ST. JOSEPH — A preliminary heat schedule is set and teams are busy gathering cardboard for an annual event to benefit United Way of Southwest Michigan.

“Rock the Boat” cardboard boat races, hosted by Whirlpool Corp., will return July 18 to the St. Joseph River. A record 75 boats are set to compete in the fourth annual event at 5 p.m. at The Inn at Harbor Shores, 800 Whitwam Drive.

“This event has continued to grow every year, and that means more money to the community,” said Dave Cichocki, vice president of U.S. sales for Whirlpool Corp. and chairman of Whirlpool’s United Way campaign, in a news release about the event. “We started with five boats in 2016, then 30 in 2017 and last year we had 64. This year, we capped it at 75 boats, and registration was full by early June.”

The life-size boats are made of cardboard, duct tape and polyurethane, and powered entirely by human paddling.

The family friendly event is free and open to the public. Last year more than 3,000 people attended.

Kids who attend can build their own pool noodle boats. The first 200 kids to come will get free Rock the Boat sunglasses.

The public can vote for their favorite teams and boats leading up to the event. The People’s Choice Award will get presented to the team that raises the most money for United Way leading up to the race. The winner takes home the Traveling Trophy and will get to present $2,500 to a UWSM-funded partner of their choice.

After the boat races, there is an after-party from 8-10 p.m. at Plank’s Tavern at The Inn at Harbor Shores. Hey Girl Hey, a Top 40s Michiana party band, will perform an array of cover songs spanning the last four decades.

For more information, to vote for the People’s Choice Award, or to volunteer to help out, visit uwsm.org/rocktheboat.