Sand Creek Regatta is what being a ‘local’ is all about

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

Each September for the past couple years, Sandpoint has come alive with local spirit at the Sand Creek Regatta. Usually under a drizzling rain, Sandpoint locals gather with truckloads of junk and flotsam that have been pounded into the rough shape of a raft, launch their homemade crafts in the creek, and race one another from Bridge Street to Cedar Street Bridge and back for bragging rights. Afterward, trophies are awarded to the winners in various categories and everyone retires to the nearest watering hole to begin scheming the next year’s raft designs.

The Reader raft took first place at last year’s Regatta. Photo by Woods Wheatcroft.

(Full disclosure: the Reader raft won last year’s event, and we fully intend to win this year, too).

The third annual Regatta takes place Saturday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m. Racers will meet at the Sand Creek parking lot (old Lakeside Inn) at 10 a.m. to launch their crafts and make any last minute repairs before the 11 a.m. start.

The rules of the event are simple. Teams have no size limit — race solo or cram as many people with oars as you can fit on your craft. Registration fees are $50 per raft and the after party this year will be at Idaho Pour Authority. Awards will be given for overall winner, most creative and most epic fail. 

When it comes to constructing your raft, a few rules must be followed: no existing watercraft are allowed; the rafts must be constructed from scratch; no inflatables are allowed bigger than 12 inches; leave no trace, meaning whatever you put in the water, you must take it all out; and all team members on the watercraft must wear a personal floatation device at all times. The Sand Creek Regatta is a non-partisan, non-political event.

Rafts can be built out of anything that floats, including pool noodles, plastic bottles, beer cans, styrofoam, wood, barrels, airline seats, balloons, water wings, life preservers and more. 

The Sand Creek Regatta is the modern evolution of a popular local event from the 1980s called the Businessman’s Raft Race — part of a larger event called Waterfest, which saw canoe races, arm wrestling matches, triathlons, pie eating contests, water skiing competitions and more.

An article from the May 23, 1984 edition of the Daily Bee said the prior year’s race included 18 rafts and drew more than 1,500 spectators lining the banks of Sand Creek.

Event organizers, husband and wife Jon and Amanda Knepper, said they decided to bring the event back from the dead a few years ago because of the changes going on in Sandpoint.

“It was the changing times, I guess,” Jon told the Reader. “We wanted to see if one of those classic Sandpoint events carried on into the future generations. Amanda and I were sitting around talking about it and we said, ‘We can talk about it all we want, but if you want it to happen you have to do it yourself.’ We hope it continues to catch on and hopefully it creates another memory someone carries on.” 

Those interested in entering a raft can email questions to [email protected]. For those who would like to participate, but don’t want to build a raft, the shores along Sand Creek provide an excellent free vantage point to watch these freaks of nautical nature take to the water.

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