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If you have a taste for the outrageous, then the America's Cardboard Cup Regatta is for you!  But be prepared for a day filled with great fun, some serious laughter, and lots of really good food.

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The America's Cardboard Cup Regatta
Crystal Lake, Illinois
Dragon Boat of cardboard

The America's Cardboard Cup Regatta is held each year (end of June), in conjunction with Crystal Lake's Gala Summer Festival, and the (delicious) Taste of Crystal Lake.

This world famous event attracts thousands of enthusiastic spectators and  contributes thousands of dollars to McHenry County and various Chicago-area charities.



Only for the Rich? Not even!

You may harbor the belief that only the mega rich can own a sea worthy ship and sail in a high-stakes regatta, but nothing could be further from the truth.

As the name suggests, in the America's Cardboard Cup Regatta, all participating watercraft are made entirely of the same, readily available, found-in-the-rubbish-pile material,  cardboard!  Yes, cardboard . . . as in plain old corrugated cardboard box. 

Despite the lowly nature of the materials mandated, many of these vessels are wonderful and highly imaginative creations.  Whimsical and often outrageously themed designs prevail.  Many crews put months and months of well planned effort into the design and construction of their boat.

Many of the designs are a sight to behold and are almost always  colorfully and elaborately appointed. 

It is not uncommon to witness Noah's Ark racing against a pirate ship, complete with smoke belching cannon, or even pitted against a Viking dragon boat.

In stark contrast, there are teams who show up with vessels that have had little time, or  ingenuity, applied. As you might imagine, these are little more than cardboard boxes that
float . . . well, at least for awhile!  Of course, that is often times one of the most entertaining and funniest, aspects of the famous Cardboard Cup Regatta.

With such a colorful, paper-tape-n-glue flotilla, there are numerous, and yes way-humorous, demonstrations as to the over-all seaworthiness of the cardboard boats, and the sailing prowess of  enthusiastic crews. 

The competition is on a timed, 200 yard course, arching across the face of Crystal Lake's sandy North Beach.  The objective of the Regatta is clear . . .  have an outrageously good time, and win if you can.  

Many of the participating crews actually do strive to win, but it seems that an equal number (edgy fringe types) prefer to go down in a blaze of glory, achieving the most dramatic sinking of the day!

While there is a Cup for the Most Spectacular Sinking, victory in failure is in the eye of the beholder!  The encouragement, laughter, and later adulation received from the crowd is a great incentive to all of the scuttled crews!

A Truly Seaworthy Noah's Ark


The Shanghai Pirate Ship

        The El Nino 3 Meter Yacht

by: Dr. Von Zuko 2001


Eclectic, Outrageous, and Fun Index:


Dr. Von Zuko's Recommended  Books on Creative Cardboard Projects:


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In Association with




The America's Cardboard Cup
Highly Coveted Awards:

Racing Cups:
Fastest Paddle and Oar Craft
Fastest Peddle and Other People Power
Fastest Sail Powered

Participation Awards:
The Geezer Cup (competitors age 50+)
Stars & Stripes (Most Patriotic Theme)
Most Spectacular Sinking
Most Enthusiastic Crew
Most Creative Theme
Most Attractive Boat
Ugliest Boat

For Information on entering:
America's Cardboard Cup Regatta

Additional Area Events
Crystal Lake, Illinois

  • Gala Summer Festival

  • Taste of Crystal Lake

  • Lakeside Festival

  • Annual Crystal Lake Expo Show

  • CABA 15 Year Old World Series Baseball Classic

  • Crystal Lake Jaycees Spring Carnival

  • McHenry County Fair

  • Woodstock Fair

  • Diddley Craft Shows

  • Doc Haznow Chili Open
    (winter golf on Crystal Lake)

  • Lights On the Lake Festival

  • Annual Ice Fishing Derby

  • Christmas Parade Old Crystal Lake

  • Poinsettia Festival


Thinking of Hosting a Cardboard Boat Race Event?

A Cardboard Boat Race Event is a great way to raise money for a local charity or community project.

To host a successful event, remember that scheduling, organizing, and logistics are all  crucial, however, promotion is one of the most critical components.  You must get the word out well in advance of the event and you must generate a lot of excitement to draw the crowd.  (This is where many fail.)

You also need to engage local businesses, local media and other organizations as paid sponsors (and paid participants).  While Cardboard Boat Events are relatively inexpensive to host, you must have corporate and media sponsorship to make it a financial success.

Don't forget other important things like, permits, insurance, and public and participant safety.

And to reiterate; Marketing is key!  If you're going to do it at all, do it up right!

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