WELLSBURG - Making a splash with its annual celebration of National Kids Day Sunday, Brooke Hills Park offered area families a day of free swimming and a chance to compete in a contest that tested their ingenuity, speed and perseverance.
The cardboard boat race was again the highlight of the park's observance of National Kids Day, an occasion created by KidsPeace, a non-profit organization aimed at helping children to avoid neglect, trauma and crises, to encourage families to spend more time together.
More than 20 teams of children, parents and other family members, arrived at the park early Sunday afternoon to build small boats using only cardboard and duct tape distributed by park staff.
Then each child boarded their makeshift watercraft and attempted to travel several feet across the pool in the shortest time. In the past spectators have enjoyed seeing how long the boats would remain afloat before sinking.
But this year most of the entries proved to be quite sturdy, and the event turned out to be a bonafide race. Participants could use an oar or the hands to propel them forward, with younger children permitted to receive a boost from their parents and guardians.
Winners of the event in the age 8 and under division were: Justin McClellan, first place, who finished in 26 seconds; Destanee Smith, second place, who finished in 33 1/2 seconds; and Brittany Myers, third place, who finished in 42 seconds.
Winners in the age 9-14 division were: Jacob Biers, first place, who was the race's top winner with a time of 24 seconds; Cheyenne Tredway, second place, who finished in 30 seconds; and Savanna Grooms, third place, who finished in 50 seconds.
In addition to being presented cardboard trophies, a tradition for the event, the winners received cash prizes and McDonald's gift cards.
The park's pool also was used for the Duck Pluck contest, in which plastic ducks were drawn to determine the winners of cash and other prizes donated by area businesses.
The park was selling chances on the ducks, but much of Sunday's festivities were free. Many enjoyed free hot dogs, snow cones and popcorn, and all children 14 and under were entered into a drawing for a large number of toys.
Representatives of Cabela's also were on hand to provide free archery demonstrations.
Bud Forte, Cabela's retail events coordinator, said, "We're happy to be here. This is a great event, and it pleases us any time we can go out and educate children."
The retail outdoor recreation store, based locally in Wheeling, has provided such demonstrations at the park on other occasions.
Paul and Patty Lish, the event's volunteer coordinators, said many local businesses and organizations contributed to the event. Major sponsors were: Koppers, Main Street Bank, Brownlee Trucking, Traubert's Pharmacy and City Plumbing, Heating and Supply.
The American Electrical Power Cardinal Plant supplied the duct tape, and Rowdy and Gary Rush of Wellsburg provided the cardboard.
Janice McFadden, the park's manager, said the event offers families an inexpensive day out and a chance to show off the park's various facilities, which include its scenic miniature golf course and paddle boat pond.
She added the park's summer season is far from over, with the next Brooke Hills Park Trifecta to be held today.
A new event at the park, it includes a community flea market, mud bog and free concert.
Mud bogs, in which drivers of four-wheel vehicles attempt to travel across the park's mud pit in the shortest amount of time, are a popular event at the park.
This year participants are competing for cash prizes and points, with those who earn the most points to receive trophies later this year.
The mud bog will begin at 1 p.m., with registration from 10 a.m. to noon. Admission is $5 each, with pit passes, enabling patrons a closer view of the pit, available for an additional $5.
The flea market will begin at 4 p.m. Those interested in selling may do so for $5 per table. For information, call (304) 737-1236.
The concert will begin at 7 p.m. and feature Power Surge, a Christian singing group.
Rosemary Mazezka of Hooverson Heights was among many who turned out for National Kids Day. She brought her two grandchildren - Hannah, 12, and Matthew, 10, who are visiting from Aurora, Colorado.
"They're having a wonderful time. This is a really nice event," she said.