If you see people dressed as bees, sharks or Vikings floating on the Peconic River in painted cardboard rigs this week, have no fear.
It's just the return of Riverhead's Cardboard Boat Race on Sunday. The free, family-friendly event encourages participants to craft boats made only of cardboard, paint and duct tape, and race them on the river.
Last year marked the first event, which made an instant -- well, splash. More than 2,000 people attended and more than 75 boats competed, says Anthony Coates, board member of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, which helped organize the event.
"The outpouring was amazing. We didn't know what to expect, but people obviously tinkered in their garages," Coates says. "The paint, the crews, the creativity -- all of it was exciting."
This year's race adds to the mix a Hula-Hoop contest, stadium seating for about 1,000 people, music and food vendors.
HOW IT WORKS
Four races are set: A regatta for children 12 and younger, a race for single occupants, a race for pontoon or barges at least 4 feet long and 8 feet wide, and an "anything goes" regatta for vessels with two or more occupants.
The goal: Stay afloat while using a single-sided paddle to maneuver the course.
As for the boats, they're to be crafted only of cardboard, duct tape and latex paint. Strict standards prohibit using materials that might give an unfair edge (Styrofoam, weather-sealed cardboard and plastic have all been deemed cheats).
"They don't have to last across the Atlantic; they only have to last a couple hundred yards," says Eddie Densieski, treasurer of the Riverhead BID. "If you build them right, they will float and they'll float well."
And if they don't -- the water is fairly shallow for adults, but participants are required to have a personal flotation device.
AT THE RACE
The winners of each race will receive trophies. A panel of judges also will bestow awards for other categories, such as the best costumed crew, the most entertaining sinker and best decorated boat.
"It was cool," says Densieski, a sixth-grader. "It was just fun to ride through and see if we were going to stay afloat."
The pair did, indeed, stay afloat, but steering the boat -- modeled after a yellow Crayola box -- was the real challenge. "We would turn sometimes and we couldn't get it straight," Densieski says. Still, the cousins managed to pass a group of boys on the water.
"They were like, 'Even those girls could pass us!' " Zaneski says. "We did pretty good for our first time." The pair will be back on the water this year.
Edward Langdon's first try earned him a second-place trophy. He dressed up like Tom Hanks in the film "Cast Away," with an overgrown beard, scruffy T-shirt, shorts and beat-up sneakers. He even strapped a volleyball fashioned as Wilson -- including the red-paint handprint, weeds and bandanna -- to his boat.
When I was going down the home stretch, all I heard was 'Go, Wilson! Go, Wilson!" says Langdon, 45. "I thought it was a great experience. I could have paddled all the way back to Center Moriches."
Riverhead's Cardboard Boat Race
WHEN | WHERE Noon Sunday on the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead. Registration and inspection of boats begins at 10 a.m., followed by a Hula-Hoop contest at 11:30.