Haines City Cardboard Boat Challenge and 7 Rivers Water Festival

The Cardboard Boat Challenge has been a long-running tradition in Lakeland, with Fall of 2018 marking their 15th year. It was such a success that, according to Executive Director with LEAD (Lakes Education/ Action Drive), Tabitha Biehl, “Haines City saw the value of outreach and community education for the lakes that we brought it to Haines City on Lake Eva last year.” 

The mission of the event is simple: to raise awareness for water conservation and educate the communities in a unique, fun, and teambuilding way. In step with the education aspect, Biehl explained that each team gets a theme centered around lake awareness. She used pollution and native plants on the shoreline as examples. Once their boats have been built, teams will decorate and name it based on their theme. 

For the challenge, there are two main categories: pre-built boats and onsite boat building. There is a list of materials for those that chose to build their boats ahead of time.  Supplies are provided for those that build onsite. 

There are three types of teams for participants to choose–a corporate/community team (both paddlers are over 18), a family team (one paddler is over 18 and one is under 18), and youth team (both paddlers are under 18). “The actual challenge,” Biehl says, “is to put two of your team members into the boat and they actually have to paddle a course in a race around Lake Eva off the shoreline.” 

The boat race will start at 10 am when guests will be, “Welcomed to come and watch and cheer on their favorite team. There is a people’s choice winner for the cardboard boat challenge so people get to vote on which one they liked the best. There is the Titanic Award and that is awarded to the team that has the best sinking boat,” Biehl explained. 

Following the Cardboard Boat festivities will be the 5th annual 7 River’s Water Festival, a free event from 10 am to 3 pm at Lake Eva Park. “The idea of water conservation really needs to get out there because we are running out of our clean water supply. There are a lot of different ways that people can not only save water but save money,” said Jackie Hollister of Polk County Utilities who started the event and continues to coordinate it.

The festival will have a host of activities for attendees that are aimed to be fun, raise awareness, and educate. Last year they held their first Recycle Fashion Show and will be bringing it back again. The show is a judged competition in which participants repurpose recyclable items that were destined for the landfill, to create a stylish outfit. 

The festival’s Water Conservation Art Contest welcomes any student K-12 in public or private schools within Polk County to enter a poster depicting water conservation. The top contenders are presented at the festival to be judged by the public. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each grade are placed in a water conservation calendar that is published every year. 

For any animal-lovers attending the event, Hands-On Wildlife will bring some of their animals to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation not only for humans but wildlife as well. Hollister noted, “These animals are also affected by what we do with our water. If we pollute our water, they suffer as well and if we use too much of it and lakes start drying up, they suffer for that too.”

Check out the butterfly tent or snap a selfie and post it using their hashtag (to be announced) to be entered into a contest for a special prize. If all the water conservation good times have your tummy rumbling, the Boy Scouts will be there serving food. 

“Water conservation is getting more and more important all the time,” said Hollister, “We really have to be more choosy about how we use our water. We need to use it more efficiently and be more careful about what we do with it. We need to be really careful about what we throw out on the sides of the streets, keeping in mind that that also ends up in our waterways.”


Cardboard Boat Challenge 

Saturday, May 5th 8am-12pm

Lake Eva Park, Haines City. You can sign up for the challange up to May 4th. For more information call contact Lakes Education/ Action Drive at lakeseducation@hotmail.com or call (863) 899-8157


7 Rivers Water Festival 

Saturday, May 5th 10am-3pm

Lake Eva Park, Haines City

For more information contact Polk County Utilities at (863) 298-4100

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