Get ready to ROCK THE BOAT 2019! Cardboard Boat Races Return Next Thursday

Nearly four years ago, 5 life-size cardboard boats took to the water outside The Inn at Harbor Shores to compete in Whirlpool Corporation’s first ever Rock The Boat Cardboard Boat Races benefiting United Way of Southwest Michigan.  The event was a hit to the few hundred people that came to watch, but in the months that followed the event, Whirlpool and United Way team members asked themselves, do we bring this event back next summer

The answer was Yes, and the rest is history.

In only its fourth year, a record 75 boats are set to compete in next Thursday’s “Rock the Boat” Cardboard Boat Races, hosted by Whirlpool Corporation at The Inn at Harbor Shores (800 Whitwam Drive).  The races begins at 5 p.m. and will benefit United Way.

The life-size boats are made of cardboard, duct tape, and polyurethane, and powered entirely by human paddling. The family-friendly event is free and open to the public. Kids activities will include build-your-own pool-noodle boats. The first 200 kids to come will get free Rock the Boat sunglasses.

Your content continues below

“This event has continued to grow every year, and that means more money to the community,” said Dave Cichocki, Vice President of U.S. Sales for Whirlpool Corporation and Chair of Whirlpool’s United Way campaign. “We started with five boats in 2016, then 30 in 2017 and last year we had 64. This year, we capped it at 75 boats, and registration was full by early June.”

Rock the Boat is now one of the biggest cardboard boat competitions in the Midwest. The number of spectators has grown exponentially as well, with more than 3,000 people making their way down to the marina last summer to join in on the fun.

This event not only features speedy cardboard crafts, but also creative vessels that make this a parade on water.  We’ve seen Dragons, Deloreans, Avengers, and even the house from the Disney animated movie “Up.”  It’s a sight you’ll only see one day a year in southwest Michigan, so arrive early and be ready for some on-the-water fun and entertainment.  

Learn more at

The People’s Choice Award

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE BOAT! At this summer’s event, the People’s Choice Award will be presented to the team that raises the most money for United Way leading up to the race. The winner takes home the Traveling Trophy AND will present $2,500 to a UWSM-funded partner of their choice! Go to to vote with your donation to the team you want to win.

PAR-TE-TYME boat viewing party

Watch the race from the river on the Par-Te-Tyme boat! We are selling tickets to the viewing party aboard the Par-Te-Tyme, a 60-foot, double-deck cruise vessel that will be anchored in the St. Joe River. Tickets are $35 per person, and that includes pizza and Rock the Boat sunglasses. There will be a cash bar and a radio remote on the boat covering the race with Matt Malone on Y-Country! After the race is over, the boat will take a Lake Michigan cruise. Tickets can be purchased at

ROCK THE DOCK with Hey Girl Hey

The public is invited to stay after the race to ROCK THE DOCK. Hey Girl Hey will be performing at Plank’s Tavern (at The Inn at Harbor Shores) from 8-10 p.m. Hey Girl Hey is a Top 40s Michiana party band. With an array of cover songs spanning the last four decades, there’s no audience that won’t love Hey Girl Hey!

For landlubbers!

You don’t need a boat to be a part of the Rock the Boat team! We need boots on the ground to make Rock the Boat the incredible community-building experience that it is. We need help at our check-in table, boat traffic directors, finish line crew, bleacher and fencing set up and tear down, and clean-up crew. Volunteer at

Preliminary heat schedule (subject to change):

Heat 1

  • Eckto 1 (United Way)
  • 100 Little Ways (Whirlpool Women’s Network)

Heat 2

  • Cora Belle (The Inn)
  • MarioKARDBOARD Kart (Capgemini)
  • The Overture (Overture)

Heat 3

  • Team Home OwnerSHIP (Union Home Mortgage)
  • SS Pony Express (Wells Fargo Advisors)
  • A Box that Rocks (Accenture)

Heat 4

  • (Pepsico)
  • Hill District Hooligans (North Pier Brewery)
  • Boatus Lotus (The Livery)

Heat 5

  • Boaty McBoard Face (Whirlpool Benton Harbor Tech Center)
  • Soggy Bottom Persons (Whirlpool Benton Harbor Tech Center)
  • (Whirlpool St. Joseph Tech Center)

Heat 6

  • (Children’s Music Workshop)
  • Club H2O (Well of Grace Watervliet)
  • Pizza Planet (The Alex Mandarino Foundation)

Heat 7

  • (Blossomtime Festival)
  • (St. Joe Today)
  • (Kinexus)

Heat 8

  • Outlaw (Whirlpool Law Department)
  • Noel’s Ark II (Whirlpool – Communications & Public Affairs)
  • Gone Phishing (Whirlpool – GIS)

Heat 9

  • SS Jennay (Gast Manufacturing Boat #1)
  • Oars not Yours (Gast Manufacturing Boat #3)
  • SS Nitro Grande (Gast Mnfg Leadership)

Heat 10

  • SMC Boat (Southwestern Michigan College)
  • Roadrunner Boat (Southwestern Michigan College)
  • (Lake Michigan College)

Heat 11

  • Clan Materials (Whirlpool Global Materials Group)
  • SeaPG (Whirlpool CPG)
  • Put a Cork In It (Whirlpool Creative Studios)

Heat 12 

  • Aboat Time (RMB Capital)
  • Chemical Reaction (Chemical Bank)
  • Bank On It (1st Source Bank)

Heat 13

  • Ahoy MarCom Mateys (Spectrum Health Lakeland)
  • Vantastic (Van’s Medical Equipment)
  • (Starks Family Funeral Homes)

Heat 14

  • Sail Away to Profits (Whirlpool Sales)
  • R&B Channel 1 (Whirlpool Sales)
  • R&B Channel 2 (Whirlpool Sales)

Heat 15 

  • OverKeel (Holt Bosse)
  • Smooth Sailing (Abonmarche)
  • Four Winds Casino

Heat 16

  • SS Tatas (Gast Manufacturing Boat #5)
  • Usain Boat (Gast Manufacturing Interns)
  • Just Add Water (Gast Manufacturing)
  • SS Impala (Gast Manufacturing Boat #4)

Heat 17

  • Relentless (Whirlpool/NAR Quality)
  • Row Your Way to Cash (Whirlpool/NAR Finance)
  • The Planning Pontoon (Whirlpool/NAR Demand Planning)

Heat 18

  • (Anytime Fitness)
  • Y Knot (Niles YMCA)
  • CHILLOUT 2 (Pier 1000 Marina)

Heat 19

  • (Palisades Nuclear NAYGN)
  • Cook Conscripts (AEP Cook Nuclear Power Plant)
  • SS Riverside (Lindberg MPH)

Heat 20

  • Duct Tape and A Dream (Whirlpool TCS)
  • Margaritaville (Whirlpool Sales Training)
  • Easy Breezy Consumer Services (Whirlpool CXC)

Heat 21

  • (Wipro Limited)
  • Sea Dog (Nahin/Dunstan Family)
  • ZIM Gladiator (ZIM American Integrated Shipping Services Co. LLC)

Heat 22

  • Boatopia (Martin’s Supermarket #23)
  • Maized and Confused (Alex’s Veggies)
  • mic-ROW-scope (PhycoTech, Inc.)

Heat 23

  • Lodz you believe they left the Hangout (Whirlpool Dryer Subsystems)
  • I sawed this boat in half! (Whirlpool Dryer Platform)
  • Record Breaking (Whirlpool Laundry Product Marketing)

Heat 24

  • Sails Call (United Federal Credit Union)
  • Livin on the Edge (Edgewater Bank)
  • (Honor Credit Union)

Heat 25

  • (WHR International Logistics)
  • (Whirlpool Cooking Organization)
  • Unsinkable III (Whirlpool – GPO Finance)

United Way and Whirlpool extend their heartfelt thanks to the event sponsors: DPM Events, The Inn at Harbor Shores, Overture, Accenture, Union Home Mortgage, Wells Fargo Advisors, Pepsico, Four Winds Casino, and Capgemini.

For more information, visit


United Way of Southwest Michigan fights for the Health, Education, and Financial Stability of every person in every community. We have the influence and relationships to make sustainable change a reality. By harnessing resources from corporate, nonprofit and public partners, we provide immediate assistance to our most vulnerable populations while addressing the root causes of our community’s longstanding challenges and changing lives for the better. To join the fight—through giving, advocacy, and volunteering—visit