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Will recycled pop bottles keep a river raft afloat?
Contestants hope that 2-liter bottles will keep them afloat during the 30th annual Rappahannock River Raft Race on the Fourth.

 Olde Towne Bicycles service manager Gary Minter (left) and employee Jon Burkes built a river raft that uses recycled soft-drink bottles for buoyancy. They^BENT^0027^EENT^ll enter it in the 30th annual Rappahannock River Raft Race on the Fourth of July.
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Date published: 7/1/2011

BY ALYX DUCKETT

Recycled 2-liter soft-drink bottles are the only things between sinking and staying afloat in the Rappahannock River for Gary Minter and Jon Burkes.

Minter, 28, and Burke, 24, who work together at Olde Towne Bicycles, decided to compete in the Rappahannock River Raft Race on the Fourth of July.

Monday's river race, which starts at Falmouth Waterfront Park, will be one of many events during the holiday weekend. Festivities range from music to parades, crafts and fireworks.

There are three categories for rafts in the race: commercial, club or organization, and individual. Registration will take place on race day.

This isn't Minter's first time in the contest. After building a raft last year using recycled bottles, he was able to persuade Burkes to help build another one.

"It's been a pretty good project," Burkes said.

Minter, a lifelong Stafford County resident, said he went to the raft races as a kid. He wanted to make his raft different from others by using recycled bottles for flotation.

"It's something you always see as a kid and want to do," Minter said. "Usually you see barrels, and I thought it would be cool to do this."

There are exactly 120 bottles keeping their raft afloat. Their Independence Day-themed craft, adorned with small American flags, is made from all donated or recycled material. Olde Towne Bicycles sponsors the raft as well as Lowe's and Fredericksburg Machine and Steel.

"We did it all for free with help from other people," Minter said.

The recycled bottles, the most important parts of the raft, came from the Spotsylvania County Landfill. Lowe's donated plywood and two-by-fours, which make up the body of the raft.

A tandem bicycle in the center of the raft attached to paddles will allow Burkes and Minter to propel the craft.

Minter says the bike is actually made from three bicycles that would have been thrown away at Olde Towne.

"It's either going to get thrown away or put to good use," Minter explained.

The raft, with 60 bottles on each side, will hold a total weight of about 350 pounds. The bottles are attached to the bottom of the raft with recycled pieces of inner tube from the bicycle shop in the Westwood Shopping Center.

Minter said he's not too worried about the bottles staying in place, because he used the inner tubes last year with no problems.

Just to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible, Burkes and Minter took the raft to a nearby pond to make sure it floated.

Both tests of the raft were successful, proving Minter and Burkes' hard work has paid off--so far.

Beyond not sinking, they said the idea is to have a good time out on the river.

"Our goal is to do well--and make it to the finish line," Minter said with a laugh.

Alyx Duckett: 540/735-1976
Email: aduckett@freelancestar.com


WHAT: Fredericksburg Jaycees Rappahannock River Raft Race WHERE: Falmouth Waterfront Park, 401 River Road WHEN: Monday, July 4. Check-in and registration are at 7:30 a.m. Race starts at 11:30 a.m. COST: Individual raft, $35; commercial, $65; organization, $50. INFO: fredjaycees.com; 540/371-6005.
Saturday

Weekend Breakfast, Colonial Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad, 225 Dennison St. 8-11 a.m.; $8/adult, $4/child.

"An American Event," Ritchie Lake Pavilion, Bealeton. A patriotic, family-friendly event. Featured speaker is Lt. Col. Oliver North. 2:30-9:30 p.m. Main event at 7 p.m. Features air show, hot-air balloon rides, pony rides, moon bounces, music and fireworks display.

Seventh annual Stars and Stripes Spectacular, Spotsylvania Courthouse area. Three music venues, pony rides, food, games, children's activities, fireworks. 3 p.m. Free. 540/507-7529.

Sunday

American Music! University of Mary Washington Philharmonic Orchestra, Market Square, 907 Princess Anne St. Patriotic tunes and Broadway favorites. Bring a chair/picnic. 7 p.m. Free. 540/371-3037.

Monday

Heritage Festival Five-Mile Run. Registration opens at 6:15 a.m. at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center. Race begins at 7:45 a.m. near the railroad station and ends at the visitor center.

Heritage Day Parade, downtown Fredericksburg. Hometown parade limited to bikes, strollers, wagons, walking, Veterans motorcycle groups, antique cars. Sponsored by Fredericksburg Jaycees. 9:30 a.m.; fredericksburg.jaycees@gmail.com.

Festival of the Streets, downtown Fredericksburg. Live entertainment, crafts, food, antique car show, dunking booth, children's activities. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

30th annual Rappahannock River Raft Race. Registration begins 7:30 a.m. at Falmouth Waterfront Park. Race begins at 11:30 a.m. and ends at City Dock, where awards will be presented. Sponsored by Fredericksburg Jaycees. $35-$60; fredericksburg.jaycees@gmail.com.

Fabulous 4th at Ferry Farm, George Washington's Ferry Farm, 268 Kings Highway. Local Patawomeck tribe, 1630s Virginia Indian village, reading of a portion of the Declaration of Independence, flag retirement ceremony, Colonial games, live music, living-history activities, food. Trolleys will run to and from the street festival in downtown Fredericksburg. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $1 admission, active military and their families free.

July 4th Spectacular, Pratt Park. Gates open at 6 p.m. and close at 8:45 p.m. University of Mary Washington Philharmonic Orchestra at 8 p.m. Fireworks 9:15 p.m. Bring a lawn chair and picnic dinner (no glass).

Independence Day Celebration, Water Street, Port Royal. Reading of the Declaration of Independence, patriotic music, 18th-century dancing, Civil War encampment and fashion show, children's games, surrey rides, food. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Free. 804/633-3490.

Independence Day at George Washington Birthplace National Monument, 1732 Popes Creek Road, Westmoreland County. Hands-on Colonial children's activities and costumed interpretation to celebrate the 235th birthday of the United States. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Fourth of July Celebration, Dahlgren naval base, King George County. Music, inflatables, fireworks. 7 p.m. All attendees must provide a valid photo ID to get onto the base. Coolers, alcohol, personal firearms, fireworks and pets are banned.

Children and Pet's Parade, Main Street, downtown Warrenton. Parade of bikes, wagons and pets. Community Band performs at the Old Courthouse. Firetrucks to climb aboard, treats for the pets and snow-cones for the children after the parade. 10 a.m.-noon.

12th annual Fourth of July Car and Bike Show, downtown Culpeper, Davis Street and The Depot. Custom, classic and antique cars, hot rods, street rods, motorcycles and trucks. Register 8-10 a.m. Show is 10 a.m. -3 p.m. Free to spectators. 540/825-4416.

Forsaken Generation Freedom Walk, downtown Culpeper. Walk for awareness of child sex trafficking. 3:30 p.m; info@forsakengeneration.com.