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The Great American Regatta is held annually at Ellis Lake in Marysville on the first weekend in July. Traditionally, it involved outboard powerboat races for adults. Cardboard boat races for children were added in 1995 and have been held every year since. In 2008, the powerboat race was canceled due to the high costs of gas and liability insurance, but the cardboard boat race was held as usual.

Craft booths and food booths sell merchandise on the shores of the lake during the regatta, and a fireworks display is held in the evening after the regatta is over.

Powerboat Races

Up to 60 speedboats compete for points and trophies.

Cardboard Boat Races

Cardboard, plastic sheeting, and duct tape is provided to children at Ellis Lake, but children are allowed to bring decorative materials from home to use as well. They are not allowed to bring floating materials to use. Children ride in the boats, but for their boats to qualify as winners, the boats only need to stay afloat until the first buoy of the course. After that, the children are allowed to swim. The races are divided into different age divisions, and prizes are awarded in categories such as the "Titanic Award," given to the boat that sinks most spectacularly.


The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta at Southern Illinois University claims to be the original cardboard boat race, having been held annually since 1974. Allen Sutfin, Jr., of Marysville saw a video of the Southern Illinois University races and decided to organize similar races at Ellis Lake to accompany the outboard powerboat races. Cardboard boat races have now been held anually at Ellis Lake since 1995.