Creativity and ingenuity abounded Saturday at MWR’s first annual cardboard boat race, which took place at Fort Riley’s Custer Hill Aquatic Park.

Families decorated their boats with colorful duct tape — the only material aside from cardboard allowed — to form everything from pirate vessels to battleships to unicorns.

About 10 to 12 families showed up the morning of the race to take part and more came as spectators.

Children, teen, and adult teams paddled across the pool using their hands and homemade oars, three boats at a time, trying to maintain a decent speed without capsizing or sinking.

MWR Recreation Specialist Melissa Phelps was in charge of pulling the event off.

She said the event was in no way related to Milford Lake’s Float Your Boat, which was cancelled this year due to safety concerns.

“We decided to do this also — we were going to do it regardless,” Phelps said. “So it wasn’t kind of a ‘pick it up thing.’ I’m not excited they canceled, because I’m sure it was going to be a wonderful event, but at least people can come here and still race their boats.”

The pool was chosen because of its central location on post and for safety reasons, due to toxic algae blooms that sometimes form at this time of year in area lakes.

“It’s also kind of like a beach — it’s a zero-depth entry, so it kind of mimics the same feel as being in a lake,” Phelps said.

She said events that involve the whole family and draw children outside — as opposed to putting them in front of a screen — are integral to family readiness.

“We don’t want people to stay in their homes or the barracks,” Phelps said. “We want people to come out into the community and make friends, make memories and have a really good impression of Fort Riley.”

Carrie Barnett and Stephanie Boone who work with Fort Riley’s New Parent Support Program created an alien theme boat, donning a green costume under her swim suit and painting her face green in honor of “Storm Area 51” which is coming up in September.

The boat took the better part of a day to construct with “time here and there” put in to get the decorations just right, according to Boone.

The whole family helped make the boat.

“Our family had a great time doing it,” Boone said.

“We have a lot of pride — no shame ... We try to get into it and have as much fun as we can,” Barnett said.

She believes “good, clean fun” such as Saturday’s boat race is great for keeping family morale up.

“We recognize that not everybody’s from the middle of Kansas,” Barnett said. “Any time we can come out and support events that are sponsored by the installation, that’s really good for the whole family. And the whole family can get involved in this.”

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