After taking a hiatus in 2020, the New Bern Chamber of Commerce, Zaytoun-Raines, CarolinaEast Health System and many other individuals and sponsors have joined forces to revive the race that began in the late 1970s. This will be the third such event since its reemergence in 2018.
“A few years ago, a number of people from the New Bern community began a conversation on social media that there was a desire to bring back the race,” says Teresa Suhrie, Director of Membership Engagement & Special Events for the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce. “The feeling was that with all the beautiful rivers we have in New Bern, we should be creating more activities to take advantage of it. A non-profit was needed to support the event and the Chamber of Commerce stepped up since an event like this serves our mission to create vibrancy in our town and support and our local businesses through lively tourism and engaging participation.”
The event will be held at Union Point Park in New Bern on Saturday, August 28, 2021, rain or shine, with the following schedule:
• 9:00am to10:30am Check-ins and inspections – Lawson Creek Park
• 10:00am Union Point opens to spectators
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• 11:00am to 2:00pm Races start, staggered
• 4:00pm Awards Ceremony at Union Point Park
This year, there will be four races:
1. Anything that Floats – NEW CATEGORY
2. Paddle Rafts
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3. Pedal Rafts
4. Classic Rafts – BY INVITATION ONLY
All entries must register by Friday, August 13 at noon, with an entry fee of $125.00 per raft crew and $35 for Anything that Floats. For details on rules, please visit the race website at: www.thegreattrentriverraftrace.com.
This year, a new category “Anything that Floats,” is exactly that. If you have a blow-up raft, tubes, cardboard boat, strapped together coolers—ANYTHING—it is allowed in the race. Get creative!
Also new this year is a Captain’s Meeting & Social which is scheduled for Friday, August 27, 2021 at the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, located at 316 South Front Street. The social will be from 5:30pm to 7:30pm and is a nice opportunity for Captains and their teams to enjoy a casual evening with the Chamber Staff and The Great Trent River Raft Race Committee. The social will include music, food and beverages. Please note that an RSVP is required.
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Other special activities will be presented by Plunderful Productions with Circus Siren Pod’s Mermaids & Mr. Willis and the Pirates of the Loose Cannon Company, showcasing a 10,000 gallon tank with live mermaids, and a pirate encampment.
This year the race event will also feature three “classic” vessels from the 1970s: Ole Yeller, Lickety Split, and Pulp Paddlers. Jim Daniels, who built Lickety Split, recalls winning the race at least ten times during the early years of the event. “The raft that I built is made from two fuel tanks off an old airplane with an aluminum frame that holds the tanks together and an aluminum paddle wheel,” says Jim.
Another “classic” vessel is Ole Yeller, which has been maintained and sailed by Capt. Wally Seijo and his family since the late 1970s. “Ole Yeller is a labor of love,” says Wally. “A few days before the race, my family and a group of friends go out and give Ole Yeller a fresh coat of paint, look it over, make repairs. We’ve been doing that for 20 years, so it has become a family tradition. The anticipation of the race is exciting: what’s going to break? will it hold together? how’s the weather going to be?” On race day, Capt. Wally welcomes spectators to come take a closer look at Ole Yeller and ask questions to get ideas for building or improving their own rafts.
Capt. Harry Baldwin, who is the Committee Chair for the Great Trent River Raft Race, has been instrumental in the planning of the race in close collaboration with Teresa Suhrie and other committee members. “The race was a dream, a vision, and Teresa, with her experience in event planning, has guided us through the process of making it all happen,” says Capt. Harry. “We are very grateful to her and the chamber, and to all of our sponsors, and especially Zaytoun-Raines.” Capt. Harry also is the maker of each individual trophy that he creates by hand out of wood in the shape of a paddle for each winner. “It’s a special, fun fundraising event for our community and we expect another great turnout.”
Michael Raines of Zaytoun-Raines says, “With our deep ties in the community, we felt very strongly about supporting the event. It’s a laid-back, fun time, and a chance for people to get together outside and enjoy the water.”