When you have a distinct vision for commemorating an odd sport, sometimes all it takes is an abandoned garage, a pressure washer, and an abundance of handmade cardboard boats to make it float.
The men behind New Richmond’s (and quite possibly Earth’s) Cardboard Boat Museum are celebrating 10 years of running the most unique place for collecting and storing aquatic racing vehicles this side of… well, anywhere. As they prep for their 25th annual regatta on the Ohio River August 19th, let’s briefly familiarize ourselves with the inception of this weird and wonderful suburban attraction.
FROM GAS STATION TO BOAT RACIN’
Built in 1926 as a Pure Oil station, the building fueled cars up into the early 1980s and had a brief stint as a mechanic shop following that. After the flood of 1997 dunked most of Cincinnati’s river-dwellers, the garage was abandoned and sat in the mud for 10 years.
In 2007, brothers Tom and Eddie Lemon, Tim Young, and Ray Perszyk decided a permanent harbor was needed to represent New Richmond’s one-of-a-kind yearly racing event and the craftsmanship associated with it. They’d built and stored their entries to the regatta for years in their own garages and sought to consolidate the collection for public viewing.
Even though the proverbial wheels fell off the garage in ’97 and it hadn’t been touched for a decade, the four dropped anchor and breathed new life into the building; they pressure washed the river’s remnants from the space, fixed it up, opened it to the public, and (perhaps unintentionally) taunted their murky neighbor down the hill by filling it with a bunch of boats.
HARDCORE DEVOTED TO CARDBOARD BOATIN’
Today, you can see several entries to past regattas prominently displayed in the museum, along with shelves of trophies, signed paddles, photos, t-shirts, and various other cardboard boat-related paraphernalia.
A Batman-themed boat, a boat in the shape of an ambulance, one that looks like a giant shoe, a U.S. Army jeep, and even a cardboard replica of the Delta Queen sit quietly in various corners of the free, modestly-sized museum, both inside and out. The creativity with these vessels is seemingly endless. And these aren’t just the boats made by the four original founders either. Entries by the community are represented, too.
Out back, a canopy of umbrellas shroud the deck in shade as visitors are invited to look out across the Ohio River and into Kentucky wilderness. A hanging TV plays footage of regattas from years past, and you’re bound to have an enlightening conversation with one of the docents about everything cardboard boat-related. It’s truly a unique place that showcases a world of artistry and engineering that you won’t get anywhere else around Cincinnati.
To sail past the cardboard boat museum would be doing yourself a disservice. This is one weird museum in Cincinnati we should all seek to keep afloat.
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The 25th annual Cardboard Boat Regatta will be held on Saturday, August 19th. To register for the race or just to go check out the events for that day, head to their website. You can visit the Cardboard Boat Museum itself at 311 Front St, New Richmond, OH 45157 (it's open Tuesdays from 4 PM to 7 PM and Saturday/Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM).