DEPUE — Two local men turned to social media to make sure this weekend’s DePue Boat Races went on as planned.
A combination of hot weather, low rainfall and rising silt levels in the lake had brought the water level down to 3 feet two weeks ago, 2 feet less than would be needed for the annual American Power Boat Association National Championship Boat Races to go on as planned.
The village and the DePue Men’s Club, which sponsors the race, came up with a plan to build a dam separating the lake from the Illinois River and then pumping the needed water into the lake.
As the event was unfolding, the two men came up with a plan to use Facebook to organize volunteers and support, while also hoping to build some community morale.
“News of the lake being too low and the possible cancellation of the races seemed to be what everyone was talking about on Facebook,” said area resident and DePue Men’s Club member Karl Ribas. “I turned to my friend Drew [Solorio] and said, ‘We have a real opportunity to help.’”
For several year, Ribas and Solorio had created a Facebook page dedicated to the DePue Boat Races. Ribas said the site acted as a hub in which fans of the event are able to communicate and share happenings.
Ribas said this year’s Facebook page really began to rally the troops and build support for the tasks that lay ahead.
“Our goal was to establish a place for which fans of the races could share their stories and photos as well as receive timely news and event information” Ribas said. “When news broke about the lake we decided to turn our attention to it. We began updating the page with what was needed and where, and the community responded. It was great!”
Working like a modern version of a telephone tree, the DePue Boat Race Facebook page helped to inform area residents and the racing community of the problems facing the event, but also served as a tool for organizing work efforts. Ribas and Solorio would post updates about what needed to be done, which equipment was needed, and where donations could be made to help offset the growing cost of the project. Within minutes of doing so, conversations had begun, and volunteers were stepping forward.
“We had volunteers show up to bag sand, install pumps and build the dam,” said race Director Paul Bosnich. “We even had people provide food and water to those of us working. The support has been absolutely amazing.”
Once the heavy work began, Ribas and Solorio began sharing updates on water-level and conditions pertaining to the dam and pumps.
“For example, we had a pump break down for a few hours,” Ribas said. “Our audience seems really interested in live updates.”
Ribas said they also have started to post updates about the upcoming events and to share media coverage about the project.
As the races continue through Sunday, Ribas said they will continue to share media coverage, photos and videos of the races and events, race results, and fan photos and comments on the Facebook page.
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