The carnival rides are up, the parade floats are being readied, and all things Boatnik are waiting, including a pair of 72-year-old restored biplanes ready for a Memorial Day flyover.

The 55th annual Boatnik festival kicks off today, beginning a five-day run intended to showcase the community while also benefitting children's programs, courtesy of event organizer the Grants Pass Active Club and a whole bunch of sponsors and community partners.

The usual suspects will be there Ñ the Davis Shows carnival at Riverside Park, boat races on the Rogue River, and fireworks on Friday and Sunday evenings. But there are new activities, too, including a 9:30 a.m. Saturday 5K run down the festival's parade route.

Also, the biplanes Ñ 1942 Boeing Stearmans Ñ are a new attraction, replacing military jets that once provided flyovers on Memorial Day but are now victims of federal budget cuts. Medford real estate developer Mike Burrill Jr. and former commercial pilot Al Eatinger will be flying the bi-planes on Monday, shortly after noon.

Burrill's grandfather, the late White City mill operator Burrill, restored the planes, which he once piloted during World War II.

"He loved flying them," Burrill Jr. said on Tuesday. "They were a primary trainer back in the early '40s. The Army needed planes, and this was the plane that was available. They ordered a lot of them and cranked them out. A lot of people learned to fly in these aircraft."

Burrill expects to conduct a flyover in Eagle Point prior to his Grants Pass appearance about 12:15 to 12:30 p.m. Monday.

"It's an honor," he said.

Oregon Army National Guard Col. Greg Day is planning associated events on Memorial Day, including a wreath-laying in the river near the Caveman Bridge by Don Myrick, a former Army Air Corps member and past Active Club president. Part of the event will be an honor guard, bagpipe band, chorus and benediction.

The weather looks to be agreeable for the big event, with highs around 80 degrees offset by a slight chance of showers Friday and Monday.

"The weather's going to be great," Active Club President Gerrin Beck said. "The parade's going to be wonderful, 100 entries."

Fireworks, due to be set off at dusk Friday and Sunday at the park, are always a highlight.

"We know we're going to get a great show," Beck said. The pyrotechnician is Rene Pare.

Other highlights of the festival include a softball tournament at Morrison Centennial Park, with finals at 2 p.m. Monday at Riverside Park.

The park is also home to the third annual Rogue Valley Wine & Brewfest, set for Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m.

The parade is 10 a.m. Saturday along Sixth Street downtown. The parade grand marshals this year are the Oregon Cavemen. The newly restored Caveman statue will be there. The Cavemen are pictured on this year's commemorative T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts sold by the club next to the VIP tent at the park.

And of course the Tom Rice Memorial White Water Hydroplane Race Ñ the namesake event for Boatnik Ñ starts at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Beck said pulling off the event is a team effort, with proceeds going to area youth programs or individual youths who apply to the club for scholarships, to help to pay for sports, trips and other activities.

Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3813 or

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