NEW RICHMOND, Ohio – Finding a marine museum near a navigable body of water is not unusual. However, finding one that is intended for corrugated paper boats.
In fact, the New Richmond Cardboard Boat Museum (www.cardboardmuseumnr.com) claims to be one of a kind, and it’s not hard to believe.
New Richmond, located on the Ohio River in Claremont County about 25 miles east of Cincinnati, has a rich history as a steampunk city and hotbed of the anti-slavery movement.
The city’s reputation as the cardboard boat capital of America is even more recent. But every year during the city’s annual International Cardboard Regatta, there’s no denying that New Richmond is for cardboard ships like the Newport, Rhode Island superyacht.
The first regatta started in 1993 as a lark, a last-minute promotion for downtown business owners during the city’s famous Fourth of July celebration.
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But the event appears to have capitalized on pent-up demand for rideable cardboard regattas and has evolved into a wet celebration of its own, drawing hundreds of boaters and thousands of spectators each August from as far away as Honolulu and Helsinki, Finland.
And in the end, he produced an entire museum.
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The nonprofit Cardboard Boat Museum relies on a large team of volunteers, said Tom Lemon, who has been racing the New Richmond Regatta for 20 years and helped found the museum with members of the regatta team in 2007.
The watercraft on display in the museum are colorful, exotic, and most importantly made of cardboard – but not as ephemeral as one might think.
In fact, most of the boats on display have already proven eligibility for the river, and many take part in the annual Regatta.
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Visitors to the museum will see a variety of boats. Although the structure of each is made only of cardboard, duct tape, and waterproof paint, the craftsmanship exhibits a variety of intricacies. Some look built for speed, others are built for laughs – most of them are probably alike.
The boats range from small individual rowers to fast 12-person cars, and from traditional kayak-style boats to boats designed to resemble historic rowboats on the Ohio River.
Many of them do not look like boats. It appears that several hot rails, a school bus, and at least a steam locomotive were intended to carry passengers. But there’s also a 10-foot guitar, a large coffee mug, and a Wile E rocket.
The Regatta, which will take place this year on August 6, is held on a short stretch of the Ohio River behind the Museum overlooking the river.
Viewers can watch from the beautiful waterfront park in downtown New Richmond and from the rooftop of the large riverside museum.
Cardboard boats may be an intrinsically exotic mode of transportation, but those involved in regattas can be quite competitive. They compete for dozens of awards and bragging rights in many categories including speed; creativity; And because these are, after all, cardboard boats, the most dramatic sinking – he, of course, called them the Titanic.
The museum also offers boat building lessons, and volunteers build custom-built boats and raffle on them before the regatta each year as a fundraiser for the museum. (Many of the museum-built boats went on to win their regatta classes.)
Picturesque New Richmond city center also offers many good local places for a snack or drink. Visitors can also pick up the New Richmond Historic Walking Tour brochure (www.newrichmond.org) at downtown businesses and check out more than twenty points of interest listed, including many associated with notable abolitionists.
Those looking for more to do in Claremont County will find many diversions nearby, including the beautiful Cincinnati Nature Center (www.cincynature.org). The Rowe Woods site in the center, about 15 miles north of New Richmond, encompasses more than 1,000 acres and features a nature center, more than 14 miles of hiking trails across a variety of habitats, a large children’s play area,
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A few miles southeast of New Richmond is Point Pleasant, the birthplace of future President Ulysses Grant 200 years ago. Grant’s Birthplace (www.ohiohistory.org) is the Ohio History Connection and tells the story of Grant’s humble beginnings.
For more information on more things to see and do in the area, visit www.discoverclermont.com.
Steve Stevens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email it to [email protected]