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'Cardboard Classic' takes sledding to another level in Fife Lake

Max Copeland
Interlochen Public Radio
Patrick Prebo standing next to his cardboard navy gunner boat at the bottom of Carly's Hill in Fife Lake

Grand Traverse County got over 27 inches of snow in January.

That’s more than twice the amount compared to the same month last year, and that makes for good sledding.

The cold was biting on a the last Saturday in January, but it wasn't enough to keep sledders from zipping down Carly’s Hill in Fife Lake.

The thing about this race is only sleds made out of cardboard are allowed.

“I had a bunch of boxes laying around, and I thought I could build something,” said Patrick Prebo who lives in Fife Lake. “If you’re a big kid at heart like me, just throw some cardboard together. I mean, it only took a day to put that together and a day to paint it.”

Patrick’s sled is a big, rectangular box about six feet long. He painted it gray to look like a navy gunner boat. It’s even got a turret and a cardboard paper-towel tube on top to look like a cannon.

There’s a hatch that opens up and Patrick climbs in. He lays down on his stomach with his head facing forward and looks out of a tiny opening.

This is his third time he’s entered the competition but this year, his goal is modest.

“I haven’t made it to the bottom of the hill yet, so this is my make it to the bottom of the hill sled,” said Patrick. “I designed it where I could put my fluffy self in the front here, so we got the weight going forward.”

It’s a design based on hard-won experience.

Last time he designed his sled like a Star Wars Podracer. Patrick said all the weight was in the back and that made the front too light.

“When it came up, it lifted the bottom of my sled up and I did 360s down the hill,” Patrick said. “My consolation prize was most spectacular crash. I got a big, giant roll of duct tape.”

Prizes are also handed out for the best decorated sled, the best costume and the fastest sled.

A local sheriff tracks the speeds with a radar gun.

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Max Copeland
Interlochen Public Radio
The sheriff clocks Patrick Prebo at his top speed of 19mph.

Two sleds — one designed as a polar bear and the other as a pickup truck — tie for the fastest at 22 miles per hour.

Max Copeland
Interlochen Public Rado
Richie standing next to his cardboard truck. He tied for the fastest at 22 mph, but his sled went further than the polar bear. So, he took home the trophy.

This year is the ninth Cardboard Classic.

Tammie Budrow is the organizer. Her daughter, Carly died 15 years ago sledding on this hill. She was eight.

Tammie said this day is for the community.

“When I look around and see the rosy cheeks from the cold, or the kids in the summer going home filthy from playing all day,” she said. “That warms my heart.”

About 100 people are here to watch the race, and this year Patrick Prebo does make it to the bottom.

“I had a couple times where I was like, ‘Oh I’m gonna flip over,’ but it was good.”

Max Copeland
Interlochen Public Radio
Patrick Prebo giving a thumbs up after successfully making it to the bottom of the hill for the first time.

Carly’s Hill Cardboard Classic is always the last Saturday in January, but Patrick says it’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s sled.

Max Copeland
Interlochen Public Radio
A cardboard sled goes up in flames after the race is over.