In the Box Seat: Cardboard Sledding Event Combines Racing, Creativity

  • After going off course and jumping the barrier between tracks, Brayden Rostron, 11, of Windsor, in his U.S.S. Belle sled, bears down on Madison Zazina, 8, of Claremont, in her Unicorn Dasher sled, during the 11th annual Arrowhead Recreation Area cardboard sled races in Claremont, N.H., Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. In addition to taking first place in creativity and design, Rostron and Zezina shared an award for the best crash of the day. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • From left, SAU 6 Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin, Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett, and Asst. Mayor Allen Damren, right, judge the Unicorn Dasher sled made by Madison Zezina, 8, and her mother Angie Zezina, of Claremont, at Arrowhead Recreation Area in Claremont, N.H., Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Only Cardboard, tape and wax could be used in the construction of the sleds and they were judged for creativity, appearance and construction.(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Brad Rostron, of Windsor helps his son Brayden, 11, haul his battleship themed U.S.S. Belle cardboard sled up the tubing hill at Arrowhead Recreation Area in Claremont, N.H., Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. There were 14 entries in the annual cardboard sled race. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Hot Sleboggan team, from left, Keith Gingras, of Northwood, N.H., Gary Stanhope, of Elkins, N.H., Diana Peterson, of Northwood, and Laura Keifer, of Elkins, crash into the airbag at the base of the Arrowhead Recreation Area toboggan run after a run of 18 seconds in Arrowhead's 11th annual cardboard sled races Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Hot Sleboggan was the year's only adult entry. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2018 11:54:14 PM
Modified: 2/19/2018 3:22:10 PM

Claremont — It doesn’t matter that it was the middle of February. On Saturday, the ice cream truck delivered in Claremont.

Spinning swiftly along Arrowhead Recreation Area’s tube lanes as though mimicking the consistency of a soft-serve swirl, Kieran and Brody Heath’s ice-cream-truck-themed cardboard sled claimed first place for speed and second for creativity and design at the 11th annual Arrowhead Cardboard Sled Race.

Brothers and students at Maple Avenue School, the Heaths’ compact vessel reached the finish line in 23 fast seconds — one second faster than both Corbin Beaudry’s “Dragon Fire” sled and the “Silver Bullet,” ridden by sixth-graders Hannah Geil and Cameron Ferland.

Their finish, combined with their high marks for creativity and design, earned Kieran, 10, and Brody, 6, the overall youth championship trophy, a prize — naturally — made of cardboard and built by Stevens High art class students.

The sled’s theme was inspired by the favorite frozen treat of Brody, who steered the sled alone and insisted it didn’t make him dizzy despite its rapidly spinning trajectory.

Where did the ice cream truck’s strengths lie, aside from its tasty theme reminding everyone of summertime?

“Honestly, I think it was the ski wax that we used,” said Kieran and Brody’s dad, Matthew, who helped construct it at home over the last week. “That and having (Brody) driving the thing. He’s the one who really wanted to get in there.”

Though the Cardboard Sled race’s 15 total entries were lower than normal — the event has drawn as many as 60, technical inspector Dale Vittum said, and had 27 last year — there were a number of firsts.

The Calvary Baptist Church youth group’s “Noah’s Ark” theme may have been the most elaborate, sending a total of 14 kids down the slope on sleds affixed with cutouts of animals. Traveling by twos, as the biblical passage would have it, they entered a giant ship at the bottom through swinging doors.

Though judges scored the setup 11 points lower in creativity and design than the ice cream truck — perhaps because of the flimsiness of the animals, many of which fell off the base of sleds during the ride — the group was recognized as the “most spirited” and as a reward was issued a number of edible goodies from event sponsors.

The first-ever “collision award” was also given out to recognize the feat of Brayden Rostron and Madison Zezima, whose sleds crashed for a NASCAR-style wipeout when Rostron’s battleship-themed vessel launched over a median separating lanes and plummeted, as though emerging over a stormy wave, into Zezima’s neon-colored “Unicorn Dasher.”

Eliciting a loud roar from spectators, the mishap caused both to take more than a minute to finish.

Aside from the collision award, Rostron’s multi-layered “USS Elle” — named in honor of his late pet springer spaniel — earned 41 creativity and design points, the most of any.

Judges included Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett and assistant mayor Allen Damren, along with SAU 6 superintendent of schools Middleton McGoodwin. They spent several hours reviewing entries for design and creativity prior to the race, while Vittum, the technical inspector, ensured every sled body was comprised only of cardboard and duct tape. Wax was also allowed to help lessen friction.

Hollow, spherical cardboard tube containers were utilized by some, including Vittum’s “Escape Gilligan’s Island” sled ridden by four of his grandchildren, and 6-year-old Kayla Stone’s “The Olympian,” made to resemble a Winter Games-style luge or bobsled.

Geil and Ferland, friends in the sixth grade, attached a half-tube to either side of the base of their “Silver Bullet,” creating runners that proved effective. While finishing a mere second slower than the ice cream truck, Geil’s and Ferland’s path was impressively straight and steady.

The overall fastest sled belonged to the lone adult entry, the “Hot Sleboggan.” About the size and shape of a rowboat, the sled was the collaboration of four friends and Bill Herrick, a Wilmot, N.H., resident whose company, Mr. Sleboggan, designs apparatus intended to increase the traveling speed of traditional toboggans.

Featuring a front end consistent with sleboggans’ pointed, surfboard-like shape, the Hot Sleboggan wowed spectators twice: first by zooming to the finish line in just 18 seconds, then by crashing squarely into padding and a man-made snowbank about 50 yards farther.

“That was right up there with the fastest we’ve had here,” event director Chuck Allen said. “It’s difficult to say for sure, because conditions are different every year and the finish line isn’t always in the same place.”

Hot Sleboggan creators Gary and Laura Stanhope, of New London’s Elkins neighborhood, and Northwood, N.H., residents Diana and Keith Gingras, previously had competed in a cardboard sled race at Mount Sunapee Resort.

“The first one we built was actually a tugboat theme, and we brought it out on the lake,” Gary Stanhope said. “We used latex paint to make it waterproof.”

As for the giant Noah’s Ark, group leader Jeff Andrews said it was worth the effort. It’s the third time a youth group from the Calvary Baptist Church has participated in the Cardboard Sled Race.

“I thought it was pretty neat, having them all come down in twos and opening the door of the arc,” Andrews said.

“It took us a long time to put it all together. Seeing all the kids work so well together and be committed to it was the best part.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at or 603-727-3225.

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