By Delaney Berreth
June 15, 2017
Many have oohed and ahhed over the colorful milk carton boats that sail on Green Lake for the Lucerne Seafair Milk Carton Derby every summer, but don’t know the trials and tribulations it took to create these fantastical boats. We sat down with longtime participants, Andy, Sam and Clinton, to talk about some of their most recognizable boats.
Andy participated in his first Milk Carton Derby in 2011. An old girlfriend had heard about it and wanted to create a functioning ferris wheel, with milk cartons as the compartments. In 2013 Andy gathered friends Sam and Clinton to work on the next milk carton derby boat. In light of the sequestration, they decided to do a tribute to the Blue Angels and built a F-18 replica, about 1/3 to scale of an actual Blue Angel jet. To complete their entry, they donned homemade Blue Angels costumes, made of blue painting jumpsuits with yellow electrical tape, Blue Angels patches stapled on, and $1 aviator sunglasses. Everyone laughed as they recalled being approached by fans thinking they were the real deal, thanking them for coming to Seafair. They came in 1st place for the Showboat category and won their heat.
The following year was the year of the hippo, as the trio decided to build a replica of the popular game, Hungry Hungry Hippos. They asked themselves, “how big can we make it?” And, “can we make it a working hungry hippo?” The group had never made mechanical parts for their boat before. To do some research, they purchased a Hungry Hungry Hippos game and dissected it. They engineered the mouth to open and close, and during their race they even threw milk cartons out in front for it to “eat.”
2015 brought their most complex and challenging idea yet: The Inchworm. Five suspension bridges with cables and hoops, a rope to pull backwards for it to “inch” across the water, and a row machine made this boat come to life. The outside was made of muslin the group hand-dyed, and Andy chuckled as he mentioned there are still green stains in his bathtub. Unfortunately, the group forgot to consider the tail – it was too thin and kept falling over. They had to reengineer it by cutting parts of the head’s floats off and attaching them to the back. They missed their race because of the time it took to fix, but luckily made it to the Parade of Boats – the non-race category for groups to show off their boat and compete for the best design award.
Each year Andy’s house near Green Lake serves as the team’s boat-building workshop. In 2016 it was being remodeled, and the team could not build a boat ahead of time. To make lemonade out of lemons, they decided to participate in the Team Challenge, where you arrive day-of and are given supplies to build your boat onsite for 45 minutes, and then race. Sam had come up with some designs ahead of time, and Andy raced. When we asked them about plans for 2017, they said that they want to keep their plan a surprise, but they are very excited to debut their newest design.
Join us July 15 at Green Lake for the Lucerne Seafair Milk Carton Derby! If you'd like to participate, register now.