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Turning 60: The Annual Boatnik Celebration Stays Young

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Credit: Mark Unger

The annual Boatnik Celebration may be turning 60 this year, but it is nowhere near considering retirement.

Hosted by the Grants Pass Active Club every Memorial Day weekend—May 24 to 28 this year—draws over 10,000 people to the parade alone, and nearly the entire population of Grants Pass in all.

In addition to their signature hydroplane boat race on the Rogue River—starting downtown and running to Robertson Bridge and back—the Budweiser Clydesdales horses are returning for the first time in ten years. This year’s line-up of events includes the carnival, Brewfest, parade, golf-shoot out, a rock concert by Warrant, fireworks, food, and of course, boat races.

The Grants Pass Active Club donates all funds from the event to various youth development programs and organizations in the community such as the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and the 4H program, president Eric Hippler said.

“We try to spread the wealth amongst all the schools in Josephine County and we also give out a little more than $14,000 in scholarships to graduating students,” Hippler said.

There will be a wide variety of vendors selling everything from food to clothes and crafts, Hippler said. And of course, the Oregon cavemen will be around to prank the unsuspecting. Throughout the weekend, there will be drag races on the river, arts and crafts, Papa John’s pizza eating contests, BINGO, kids’ activities and a multitude of other activities.

“On Memorial Day, we have Memorial Day services starting at 11:30 am, honoring veterans and current military personnel with a flyover of two jets from Kingsley Field over in Klamath Falls, and right after that is the Tom Rice memorial hydroplane race which will have over 20 boats this year,” he adds.

The event is free, but tickets must be purchased for the concert, Brewfest and the carnival. They can be purchased the day of the event, but carnival tickets will be $5 cheaper before. Presale tickets for all additional events can be purchased at Li’l Pantry in Grants Pass. This year, there’s a luxury of free shuttle buses from the Josephine County Fairgrounds to the event at Riverside Park.

“This event really brings out a lot of people and brings a lot of money not just to our organization, but it brings a lot of money to the community also,” Hippler said. “It really is a driving force for the economy.”

Hippler said he’s been involved in Boatnik for 15 years, but this is his first year acting as president for the Active Club.

“Very seldom do you see people who aren’t happy at Boatnik, and that’s pretty cool, to be able to give back to the community and see the enjoyment,” Hippler said.

Full schedule and information at boatnik.com.


60th Annual Boatnik

May 24 – 28

Riverside Park, 304 E. Park Street, Grants Pass

Free Admission, tickets for additional events.




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