It all started with a fire truck. The year was 1950 Maple Valleyites needed the area’s first fire truck. They gathered at Gaffney’s Lake Wilderness Lodge for an evening of celebration. The firemen sold tickets for $1 and had no problems raising the $1000 they needed for the new engine. It was so successful, the community decided to make it an annual event called the Queen’s parade. Although boat racing had been taking place on the Cedar River since the 1940s(Fardig,1988), the races really took off when it was added to the annual Maple Valley Days festivities in 1958.
Boats were designed and built by the racers themselves. Sometimes taking a year to build, these boats were an average of 22 feet long, 30 inches wide, weighed between 90-120 lbs, had a flat bottom and were made of either fiberglass or wood. They carried two people with the front racer facing downstream paddling kayak style and the rear racer facing upstream, sitting on a sliding seat, rowing with aluminum oars (Fardig,1988).
The Cedar river is unpredictable, which in turn made the races very exciting. The most difficult part of the race was called the “Dorre Don Chute”. Sitting under a trestle at the end of Dorre Don road, viewers of the race could practically reach out and touch the racers as they headed toward the white water rapids of the narrow passage and the 1-foot drop of the chute.
In 1962 the Cedar River Boat Race Association altered the 11-mile course to begin at Landsburg and finish at the Cedar Grove Bridge. (Fardig,1988). Racers did not race at the same time and instead had timed trials that were maintained by a designated timekeeper team. It is said that although the race can be dangerous, it was more dangerous to be a spectator.
To view the race, spectators would jump in their cars at Landsburg, driving quickly along the river jumping out at various viewing points before jumping back in their cars trying not to collide with one another as they raced to the next viewing point. Viewing points were at Landsburg Bridge, Arcadia, Upper Dorre Don, Lower Dorre Don, Maple Valley, Johnson’s Corner, Melton’s Corner and finally Cedar Grove.
The racers took an average of 10 minutes to get between each viewing point.
There have been several stars of this race over the years. 1963 brought in the dominant racing team of the Soushek brothers, Bob and Ben, who won 10 years in a row. Bill Niord came onto the scene in the early 70s, causing the Soushek brothers to delay their retirement. Coal was King author Bill Kombol participated in the race in the 70s and 80s coming in second in 1975 and third in 1976 with his partner Bob Morris. 1988 saw the first female to participate, Heidi Clark, who at the time was a senior at Enumclaw High School.
The following is a chronology of the past races on the Cedar put togeter by Rick Fardig in an article written in the June 1988 edition of the VOICE of the Valley:
|1962||Stoneway||Tony Junevitch, Homer Suhoversnik, first|
|1963-73||Fore, Inc.||Ben & Bob Soushek, first place for 10 years|
|1974||Colonial Inn||Bill Niord & Dave Wilson defeat Bob & Earl Soushek|
|1975||Fore, Inc.||Ben & Bob Soushek team up for their last victory to defeat Niord with new partner Bill Furlong|
|1976||Stoneway||Niord & Furlong hope for a head up competition with Sousheks but Bob injures arm, rookie team Dan Petchnick & Mike Davies|
|1977||Screamin’ Eagle||Dan & Rudy Petchnick surprise Niord and Furlong in a new glass boat which revolutionizes Cedar River Boat Racing.|
|1978||Screamin’ Eagle||Dan & Rudy Petcimick defeat Lee Reichert & partner Mike Davies|
|1979||Likity Split||Niord & Reichert foil Petchnick brothers attempt taking home perpetual trophy|
|1980||Likity Split||Niord & Reichert make it two straight victories over veterans Jim Thompson and Bob Morris|
|1981||Screamin’ Eagle Too||Dan & Rudy Petchnick do not allow Bill and Lee “The Trophy”|
|1982||Pride of Hobart||Lee Reichert & Jim Thompson defeat Bob Morris and Rob Krause|
|1983||Screamin’ Eagle Too||Dan & Rudy race again and win|
|1984||Screamin’ Eagle Too||Dan & Rudy make it two straight|
|1985||Screamin’ Eagle Too||Dan & Rudy take home “The Trophy” but only win by two seconds. Lee and Colt Smith nearly take it away|
|1986||Coast to Coast||Lee Reichert & Colt Smith win easily|
|1987||Coast to Coast||Lee Reichert & Colt Smith defeat Rick Fardig & Ken Durham by 2 minutes to make it two in a row. Will make an attempt at the perpetual trophy in 1988.
By the 90s the era of homemade boats racing along the Cedar would end.
- About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.maplevalleydays.com/about/
- Fardig, R. (1988, June). « Black Diamond shows speed Electrics round into form suddenly and defeat Black Diamond » Cedar River boat race history: 1940 through 1980s. VOICE of the Valley.
- Pedee, D’Ann. (1978, June 7). Screamin’ Eagleswoops down for another ‘kill’ in Cedar River Men’s Boat classic. VOICE of the Valley.
- Petchnick, Linda. (1988, June 15). The RiverHawk Swoops to Victory. VOICE of the Valley.