Memorial Day Boatnik, honoring with ceremonies and races

GRANTS PASS, Ore.– As it’s been since Boatnik first began 61 years ago, a ceremony was held before the annual hydroplane race to honor our fallen heroes.

With words of prayer and salutes of respect, the 61st annual Boatnik honored the men and women who gave their lives for this country.

The day also remembered one local man who died in the line of duty. Tom Rice, a marine deputy with the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, died in a search and rescue helicopter crash 17 years ago.

Now, every year on Memorial Day they hold a race in his honor.

“We named the race after him because like Ernie Fields is now – Marine Deputy Ernie Fields – super supportive of the race,” said JJ DeForest, a Grants Pass Active Club member. “Gives up their whole weekend to be out here for us and so that’s how we honor him.”

The race hasn’t changed too much in 60 years. DeForest remembers watching the races when he was a kid.

“I grew up here. When I was eight blocks away, you hear these motors running, hop on my bike and watch from the bank,” he said.

But as times have changed so have has Boatnik.

“It’s morphed into the third largest event in Oregon,” said DeForest.

Aas racers retire and new generations come forward, what remains constant is the day of remembrance and the strength of a community honoring those who sacrificed their lives.

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