The Heber Springs World Championship Cardboard Boat Races started in 1986, and they get bigger every year. More and more people show up to see the spectacle every year. Local organizations and individuals build boats out of cardboard and race down a 500-foot course. There are also some celebrity competitors. Local newscasters and even "American Stuffer's" Daniel Ross have competed.
There are almost 20 pages of rules for boat construction, but the main rule is that the boats have to be all cardboard with no flotation devices. They will use a metal detector to check boats when needed. With few exceptions, the only non-cardboard materials allowed are tape, polyurethane and glue. There's a mechanical division that allows a few more bells and whistles. Check out the rules
It's a serious competition. The team that drives the boat doesn't have to build it. Many teams have professional organizations (like Falcon Jet and Kimberly Clark) build their boats.
Races are ran in heats, with kids going first, then adults and then celebrities. Only two to three boats race at one time.
The Heber Springs World Championship Cardboard Boat Races take place towards the end of July every year. It's an all day event, but the races normally start at 10:00.
Where / Cost:
The races are on Sandy Beach in Heber Springs. Sandy beach is at the end of Front street, near downtown Heber Springs (Map). Admission to the race is free, but in 2012 they charged $5 for parking. There is a public restroom. No pets allowed on the beach.
Food vendors are present, so bring cash. They have things like snow cones, ice cream, hot dogs and festival foods. These are not normally present at the beach, and appear only for the festival.
Viewing the Races:
The races are on Sandy Beach in Heber Springs, which is a swimming area with a sand beach. If you're going to visit the races, bring your bathing suit and sandals. You once were able to see the races great on the shore, but there are a lot of spectators now. The best seats in the house are out in the water. You can still see from the shore, but you'll miss a lot.
Besides winning the race, competitors can win several other awards. They have a Captain’s Award for the most creative team and boat. The boat and team need to have a theme that carries throughout the day. Judging begins at registration. The Pride of the Fleet Award is the for the best engineered boat. The coveted Titanic Award goes to the boat that sinks the most dramatically.
The event is put on the Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce and they want it to be a day filled with activity. The Chamber also hosts a treasure dig for kids where kids can dig in the sand and win prizes. There's also a sandcastle building contest, a watermelon eating contest and a volleyball competition.
Be sure to check out the Swans in Heber Springs in the winter.