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Start saving those empties! Milk carton boat races are back this summer

The former mainstay of the Minneapolis Aquatennial is a free-standing event now, along with sand castle building.

It was a sad day a couple of years ago when one of Minneapolis' popular summertime traditions reached its "sell by" date.

But, ahoy there, milk carton boat racing fans! The spectacle is returning to Lake Calhoun this July – and sand castles are, too.

A non-profit group is signing up entries for the Twin Cities Beach Blast, which is coming to Thomas Beach on Lake Calhoun on July 16.

For about 40 years boats made out milk cartons (or juice cartons or other half-gallon containers) were part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial festivities. The boat races developed quite a following as teams of builders tried to outdo each other with ever-more-elaborate creations – most of which were actually seaworthy, at least for awhile.

Videos like this one or this one can give you a taste of the aquatic scene. Meanwhile, there was also building underway on the beach, as the Aquatennial's sand castle contest matured.

But in 2015 organizers announced the festival was downsizing from 10 days to four. The Lake Calhoun events ended as the Aquatennial focused more on the Mississippi Riverfront and downtown Minneapolis.

The Star Tribune says the last two summers small groups of milk carton boat fans have still gathered at Lake Calhoun to keep the tradition alive. But now they've gained a sponsor, Spire Credit Union, and are resuming a competition that's open to the public.

The Beach Blast includes a handful of categories for milk carton boats. There's one for kids 12 and younger (one adult allowed on board), one for teenagers, another for adults. There's a separate competition for the biggest boats – the "Whales" – with a $1,000 prize going to the most creative.

The sand castle competition will be open to teams of four or five people, who will each have a 10-foot square plot of sand to work with.

It's all separate from the Aquatennial, which will take place the following weekend, July 19 through 22.

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