Build a boat during Riverfest

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Families and children will have a chance to build their own boats during Riverfest in Niles this summer.
The Niles Junior Optimist Club and Niles AAA of Michigan are sponsoring the family-oriented boat building workshop, which will include an opportunity for five families to build a regular size, fully-usable canoe each.
The workshop will also give children an opportunity to build smaller boats.
Four Junior Optimist Club volunteers and Tom Hurst, a wood shop teacher at Ring Lardner Middle School, prepared materials for more than 50 small boats and the five regular size canoes Friday morning at the middle school's wood shop.
Hurst, a long-time wooden boat enthusiast, will supervise and help the boat builders build their boats.
The family boat workshop includes building a 15-foot plywood canoe, learning basic boat building skills, creating a vessel and at the same time strengthening family bonds, he said.
Hurst has helped organize similar events in the past.
He said if everything goes well, the large boats will be in the water at the end of the class.
The class will meet for the first time on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
On Saturday, the class will start at 9 a.m. and go until the boats are completed, Hurst said.
Sunday is launch day, when participants will see whether their boat building effort has paid off.
Hurst said the technique that will be used to build both the small and large boats is called "stick and glue" boat building.
Many small boats, such as canoes and kayaks are built using this technique, he said.
The technique includes tying pre-cut materials together with plastic zip ties before sealing the bottom with tape, he said.
Eventually, a building adhesive is used to seal the boats which are left to dry overnight before they are trimmed the following day, Hurst said.
Hurst said the wooden boats will be made of plywood.
Hurst added that if covered with epoxy, the boats will be as strong as any plastic boat.
Jeremy Croteau was among the four optimist club volunteers who prepared materials for the boat building workshop at the Ring Lardner wood shop Friday.
Optimist club members are spreading the word about the event and so far the response has been good, he said.
The other three volunteers, Jonathan Poole, Timothy Brandt and Heather Croteau, agreed and said the club is using their concession stand at Riverfront Park's Amphitheater during the Thursday night free concerts to promote the event.
Children who want to build small boats can register in advance by paying $6, but drop-ins are also accepted, Hurst said.
The total fee for building the small boats is $12.
Building the large boats, however, is more costly and there is a limited amount of spaces available.
Families interested in the work shop must register by July 26 and must include a $100 deposit check made out to Riverfest and a letter from the family stating why they wish to participate in the program.
Total cost for each both is $300.
Families not selected will have their deposit check returned.
A family for the large boat workshop is defined as at least two people that care about each other with at least one adult to work together for the duration of the project.
Three or four family members are ideal for building a large boat, but two will work.
All family members must participate in the event.
For more information about the event call Tom Hurst at 269-556-9549; Lisa Croteau at 687-4332, or Dick Fintze at 683-8888.

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