Today, some hearty fellow Daytonians followed in their footsteps, sort of. They looked at piles of debris and said, “I think I can row this.”
And then they tried.
At Riverscape, in the shadow of the Engineers Club and a statue of the Wright Brothers taking flight, we watched do-it-youselfers take part in Dayton’s Outrageous River Derby. If I heard emcee Commodore Jim Bucher of WDTN Channel 2 correctly, this was the 14th one.
But it was my first, and it turned out to be a beautiful day to hang out by the river for some silly fun. The gist of the event is this: Make a raft, any kind of raft, get it in the river, and race it down the river a hundred yards or so. Try not to sink.
Themes included a Lady Gaga boudoir and an Abe Lincoln who looked suspiciously like a plastic Jesus with an electrical tape beard. A last-minute entry was made of a pipe frame, cardboard, saran wrap and duct tape.
Was there lots of duct tape, you ask?
Did Wilbur wear a funny hat?
The paddle prizes didn’t go only to the swift. The judging panel included an engineer, some student artists from Stivers and K-12 gallery, who gave out prizes in categories like creativity and most-likely-to-sink before the race even started. I can’t tell you who won the superlatives because we’d taken a pause from the sun to get snacks for our boys.
But then again, I can tell you who won: Everyone there because it was just goofy fun, a gorgeous blue sky, a soft breeze and a great time at Riverscape.
After we downed our snacks, we sat at the river’s edge and watched the race. Honest Abe got a little dishonest help from someone pushing, and Lady Gaga was surprisingly strong. What I mean by that is that I still have no idea how she stayed afloat.
But they finished second and third. The race went to Poor Man’s Kayak, which turned out to be a fine kayak indeed, held aloft by rows and rows of one-liter soda bottles on its underside and sped along by a very able rower with a great sense of balance.
I’m not sure we’d have made Orville and Wilbur proud, but I have no doubt our hometown ingenuity would’ve made them laugh.