Two teams battle it out in the Chuckatuck Creek raft race, held Saturday after Hurricane Arthur meant the annual Fourth of July tradition in Eclipse couldn’t take place as normal.
Two teams battle it out in the Chuckatuck Creek raft race, held Saturday after Hurricane Arthur meant the annual Fourth of July tradition in Eclipse couldn’t take place as normal.

Archived Story

Down the creek a day late

Published 11:13pm Saturday, July 5, 2014

Who won the day-late Chuckatuck Creek raft race? Who cares — we’re here to have fun.

That sums up the attitude dockside in Eclipse on Saturday afternoon, where homemade vessels of dubious seaworthiness vied to draw the most laughs.

But to say the event was completely devoid of competitive spirit wouldn’t be entirely true.

“We are certainly hopeful that we finish,” Chuck Pierce, on a team with Ernie Anderson and Brian Kaine, said ahead of the race.

They put their raft together in “less than a day, with really no brain power behind it.”

“If it stays afloat, we’re going to be excited,” Pierce added. “That’s a win for us.”

Also before the competition commenced, Debbie Zirpolo said her son and two of his friends at Virginia Tech, where they’re studying engineering, appreciated the extra day of raft-building afforded by Hurricane Arthur. The event is usually an Independence Day tradition.

Her son, Thomas Westfall, has participated in the raft race since he was 10, Zipolo said. He’s 20 now.

“They first got together on Thursday night at 7:30,” she said of this year’s raft-build effort.

John Smithwick said the annual race is a big deal. “Real family-type stuff,” he said.

His great-grandson, Jacob Gray, was in the event. “He and his granddaddy put it together,” Smithwick added.

Also dockside was Charlotte Nieman, whose son Chris Nieman had a hammerhead shark raft this year with Jay Gould.

“They even had the Titanic, and that is the only one that sank,” she said. That was “10 or 12 years ago.”

Down the creek at the Route 17 bridge, a sharp report and cloud of smoke signaled the race was over. But no one on the dock knew who had won.

Folks waited patiently for Thomas Hazelwood — Suffolk’s commissioner of revenue, an Eclipse resident and member of the event-organizing CE&H Ruritan Club — to report back with the results.

The wait continued. Conversations struck up and people forgot about it.

“It’s about the community coming together and having fun,” Vickie Bailey explained. “Everybody’s rooting for each other, no matter who wins or loses. It’s just a great community to live in.”

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