The idea for a fundraiser? On a warm day, invite departments and student groups to create a lunchtime regatta for the Fountain. And the first boat over the falls wins prizes.
The judges would be Dr. Tresa Saxton, Dr. Cherry Callahan and Reade Taylor. The Homecoming Queen and King would assist. “I’m not sure what to judge. The one who comes in first wins, right?” Saxton jokingly asked.
As the boats were being readied for the competition last Friday, Jamie Herring, chief of police, noted that “it was Drew’s idea,” referring to Officer Drew Whitaker. The campus’ police have supported Special Olympics since 1991, Herring said, and they were looking to do something different.
As Whitaker got ready to take off his shoes and place the boats in the water for the first race, he explained he’d been thinking of something – and someplace – that would unite the whole campus community. His squad was looking at the Fountain one day – and it clicked for them. Sgt. Larry Armburger suggested that the contest could be the first boat to go over the falls wins.
Whitaker expected about $1,500 would be raised as a result of the day’s event.
Lots of area businesses donated refreshments and prizes. Ten boats were entered, with a registration fee for each. Also during the lunch hour, raffle tickets for prizes were sold – numbers were called out during lulls in the wind (and hence, in the competition).
Nearly 200 watched, including a few classes of preschoolers from the university’s child care facility.
Teams had to build their boat to these specs: No more than 8 inches wide x 18 inches long; and not less than 6 inches wide x 10 inches long. And they could not test out their boat at the Fountain.
In the first heat, one of the two Student Health Services boats took a commanding lead.
Roy Hamilton (SHS) was observed blowing on the sail, as SHS staff cheered it on. For a moment, the wind blew it backwards, perhaps a bit of poetic justice.
It reversed course and led the way. “We’re going to win!” said Sharony Green (SHS). But it got stuck at the cusp of the falls. “Oh no! Oh, shoot,” Green said. Eventually, Parking Operations’ boat breezed past and over the falls, to a round of cheers.
Hamilton noted that a little toy man from their boat went over the falls before either boat – but Parking Operations was declared the winner. Hamilton said next year, they’ll probably have a stiffer hull, maybe made of styrofoam, so it’s less likely to get stuck.
In the second heat, Student Health Medical Clinic won. That boat featured a sail with the stitched words “SS Anna Gove Medical,” a little flag, and two tiny alligators on the deck. As cute as it was fast.
The final race-off featured the top four finishers: from Dean of Students Office, Student Health Medical Clinic, the Police’s “UNCG Herring,” and Parking Operations’ “The Enforcer.”
The UNCG Herring was an aircraft carrier, with toy airplanes including a stealth bomber, and a small command tower. But, it too slowed and then teetered at the edge, as other boats approached from behind. But before any could catch it, it toppled over the falls.
“The UNCG Herring has won it all!” the DJ shouted.
But Special Olympics was the real winner.
Visual: The UNCG Herring wins, as it topples over the falls first in the final race. The fundraiser made quite a splash.