CARTHAGE, Mo. — Engineering skills and creativity will be put to the test racing homemade rafts during the inaugural Carthage Paddle Battle, set for July 19-20 in Kellogg Lake Park.

The two-day event begins at 7 p.m. Friday with food trucks, a beer tent and live music. All participants will have their boats on display for the public, and the audience can vote on a favorite.

Events continue from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday with raft racing heats taking off every 30 minutes, concluding with a championship race.

Kip Smith, lead organizer and owner of Smith Midwest Real Estate, the presenting sponsor, said he came up with the idea as a fun way to bring the community together and raise proceeds for improvements at the lake and the park.

“We knew we wanted to have it at Kellogg Lake Park because it’s so nice out there and it’s a very underutilized asset to Carthage,” said Smith. “We wanted to bring new people to visit Carthage and let people see what a beautiful park that is. All of the proceeds from this fundraising event will go back to the park.”

Most of the park’s funding is generated by private donations and grants.

Smith hopes to raise at least $5,000 this year, and David Lawhon, president of the Kellogg Lake Board, said one of their main goals with the proceeds will be to construct a restroom.

“There are no restrooms out there currently, which sometimes deters people from using the park because they have to pack up and leave,” said Lawhon. “It’s one thing we’d really like to see out there. We also have some thoughts on family-size pavilions to provide shade where they could go out and have lunch. Another thing we’re trying to do is to raise money for a foot bridge that spans part of the water on the far side of the lake.”

Paddle battle participants must be at least 16 years old and must wear a life jacket. The race course on Spring River is about 1,000 feet downstream. The boat entry fee is $100 for a team of four to eight people, but the event is free for spectators. Smith said 20 teams have signed up so far.

“The boats have to be all of homemade construction,” Smith said. “It can contain no element of a factory-made boat. I think people will use barrels or sealed-up 5-gallon buckets. We’re still accepting boat entries for the race.”

Trophies will be awarded to the winners of each heat as well as the grand champion. Trophies will also be awarded by a panel of judges for: Most Likely to Sink, Most Creative Raft and Best Themed Raft with Costumes. Spectators can vote on a favorite raft Friday night, and the Audience Choice Award winner will take home $500 cash.

“Everyone’s welcome, and it’s a family-friendly community event that I hope turns into something that people can come back and enjoy year after year,” said Smith.

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.

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