The Cardboard Boat Regatta makes the city on the Ohio River worth visiting – The Columbus Dispatch | WHs Answers

NEW RICHMOND, Ohio – It’s not uncommon to find a maritime museum near navigable water. Finding one dedicated to corrugated boats is however.

In fact, the New Richmond Cardboard Boat Museum (www.cardboardmuseumnr.com) claims to be one of a kind, which isn’t hard to believe.

New Richmond on the Ohio River in Clermont County, about 25 miles east of Cincinnati, has a rich history as a steamboat town and a hotbed of the anti-slavery movement.

The city’s reputation as America’s cardboard boat capital is more recent. But every year during the city’s annual International Cardboard Boat Regatta, there’s no denying that New Richmond is to cardboard boats what Newport, Rhode Island is to luxury yachts.

A pavilion in the New Richmond Riverfront Park stands near the Cardboard Boat Regatta race course.

The first regatta began in 1993 as Lerche, a last-minute deal for downtown business owners during the city’s popular Fourth of July celebrations.

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But the event has apparently tapped into a pent-up demand for rideable cardboard boat races and has grown into its own boozy celebration, drawing hundreds of boaters and thousands of spectators from as far away as Honolulu and Helsinki in Finland each August.

And eventually it became a whole museum.

New Richmond’s Cardboard Boat Museum: Fascinating and entertaining

The nonprofit Cardboard Boat Museum relies on a large team of volunteers, said Tom Lemon, who has competed in the New Richmond Regatta for 20 years and helped found the museum with his regatta team members in 2007.

The watercraft on display at the museum are colourful, whimsical and, most importantly, made of cardboard – but not as ephemeral as one might think.

In fact, most of the boats on display have already proven their river skills, many of them competing in the annual regatta.

Pretty and historic downtown New Richmond is fun to explore.

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Museum visitors see a variety of boats. Although each’s torso consists only of cardboard, duct tape, and waterproof paint, the crafts feature a wide variety of intricacies. Some seem built for speed, others purely for laughs—most maybe a little bit of both.

Boats range from tiny one-paddler affairs to 12-person runabouts, and from traditional kayak boats to those resembling historic Ohio River paddle wheels.

Cardboard Boat Museum co-founder Tom Lemon talks about a boat under construction at the museum.

Many don’t even resemble boats. Several hot rods, a school bus, and a steam locomotive at least look like they’re meant to take passengers. But there’s also a 10-foot guitar, an oversized coffee mug, and a Wile E. Coyote-style sit-atop rocket (although I’d suggest staying away from boats built by Acme Co.).

The regatta, which takes place on August 6th this year, takes place on a short section of the Ohio River just behind the Riverfront Museum.

A sign on the riverbank indicates the distance to some of the hometowns of visitors to the museum and the regatta.

Spectators can watch from the pretty waterfront park in downtown New Richmond and from the museum’s own large waterfront patio.

Cardboard boats may be a peculiarly whimsical mode of transport, but regatta participants can be quite competitive. They compete for dozens of trophies and bragging rights in many categories including speed; Creativity; and because they are cardboard boats, the most dramatic sinking – called the Titanic Award, of course.

The museum also offers boat building courses, and volunteers build and raffle custom boats each year before the regatta as a fundraiser for the museum. (Many of the boats built in the museum have won their regatta categories.)

The boats on display range from the simple to the sublime.

Picturesque downtown New Richmond also offers several good places to eat or drink. Visitors can also purchase a New Richmond Historic Walking Tour brochure (www.newrichmond.org) from downtown stores and check out the two dozen listed attractions, including several associated with prominent abolitionists.

Those looking for more things to do in Clermont County will find plenty of things to do nearby, including the beautiful Cincinnati Nature Center (www.cincynature.org). The center’s Rowe Woods site, about 15 miles north of New Richmond, covers more than 1,000 acres and features a nature center, more than 14 miles of hiking trails through a variety of habitats, and a large children’s playground.

Souvenir?  Of course there are souvenirs.

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Just a few miles southeast of New Richmond is Point Pleasant, the birthplace of future President Ulysses S. Grant, who was born 200 years ago this year. Grant’s Birthplace (www.ohiohistory.org) is an Ohio History Connection website and tells the story of Grant’s humble beginnings.

The birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant is in Point Pleasant, just a few miles from New Richmond.

For more information on other area attractions and activities, visit www.discoverclermont.com.

Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at sjstephensjr@gmail.com.

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