The Great Trent River Raft Race returns for second straight year (this time around) on June 21-22

Sometimes the best ideas are rekindled old ideas.
That certainly seems to be true about The Great Trent River Raft Race, which returns to New Bern for the second consecutive year. Before last year’s event, there had been a lull of 30 years.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, before a hotel and convention center were built on the banks of the Trent River at what was then called Centennial Park, the summertime event drew crowds of 10,000 people to watch around 90 contestants race their handcrafted and often ludicrous watercraft.
A couple of years ago, local Realtor Steve Tyson replanted the seed for another go-round.
“I came across 10 or so old raft race photos and posted them on Facebook with various comments on how cool it would be if we could bring it back,” said Tyson, whose Facebook page “Remember New Bern When” is a treasure trove of historical photos, facts, and stories.
“Harry Baldwin and Trish Williams (both of whom were in real estate sales at the time) were most responsible for actually making it happen,” said Tyson. “The Chamber of Commerce and Kevin Roberts (chamber director) get an assist.”
“Assist” might be an understatement. The raft race now is an official New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce event.
As for Tyson? “My role was more of a cheerleader,” he said.
Cheerleader or seed planter, Tyson’s idea took root, and after an absence of 30 years, the raft race returned to the banks of the Trent in June 2018.
So successful was it that the event is being held again on June 21-22, this time expanded with concerts, more than 80 vendors, and two full days of events—including the races, which will be held on June 22, with Union Point Park the centerpiece of activities, said Teresa Suhrie of the Greater New Bern Chamber of Commerce

Festivities start on Friday with the “Rockin’ On The Rivers” concert, including fly-overs on both days by the Bandits Flight Team.
Nashville recording artist Chris Lane headlines the concert, with Nashville recording artist Walker Hayes
and New Bern’s Bryan Mayer joining him. Tickets cost $20 before June 16, then $25. Children 6 to 15 get in for $10.
Tickets can be obtained at the chamber website,

Saturday, of course, there will be a full day of racing on the river.  “A special thanks goes out to our 2018 and 2019 Event Title Sponsor, Zaytoun-Raines,” chamber organizers say.
As for contestants, the event now includes paddle boards and kayaks along with homemade rafts, and the catchphrase remains the same, “Design It – Build It – Race It!”
Bring your paddle board, kayak, or design and build your own human-powered watercraft, or just bring yourself if you want a weekend of quirky, fun entertainment.
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Race registration and schedule
Event Day – June 22, 2019 (rain or shine)
9-10:30 a.m. check-ins and inspections.
11 a.m.-2 p.m. race starts, staggered to reduce congestion and for safety depending on the number of entries.
4 p.m. Awards Ceremony. Prizes include cash, gift certificates, and trophies

Entry highlights
All entries must register before June 9, 2019 or before entry slots are filled. The entry fee is $150 per raft crew, and $35 per kayak and stand up paddle board. Fees include all crew members.
Captains and crew must download and sign a waiver and present it during check-in on event day.
There is no length limit for rafts, but they should be no wider than 8 feet. There is no height limit, but Alfred Cunningham Bridge will not open for this event other than normal traffic.
Construction materials have limitations, too—no glass, unencapsulated Styrofoam, or empty containers that once held toxic materials may be used to construct your raft. No nails or sharp items may be used below the water line. All vessels must be securely lashed as not to fall apart during the race. No motors of any kind are allowed. Crew members may use paddles, sails, or human powered propulsion.
More details:
View awards and prizes here: