By Curt Yeomans
Marc Boyd looked concerned as the minutes ticked down to when he would have to board the "Sexy Lil Kiwi," a boat made from cardboard and duct tape, during a Rotary Club gathering of foreign exchange students from across the state.
There were 15 minutes left until the vessel had to be completed. As the Livingston, Scotland native, and student at North Georgia College and State University, looked down at his team's boat, he saw two pieces of cardboard that resembled more a rag-tag, barely assembled raft, than a boat.
"You've created the Titanic for me to pilot!" Boyd said to Lauren Reilly, his old friend from Livingston, boat-race teammate, and the designer of what was supposed to be a rowboat.
Forty-eight college, foreign exchange students, who are being hosted by rotary clubs across Georgia, converged on Clayton County this past weekend for the 2009 Maynard Memorial Weekend event.
The students, who hail from countries such as Scotland, Colombia, Sweden and Lebanon, are participating in the Georgia Rotary Student Program, where rotary clubs around the state host visiting college students from around the world, for a year.
The Maynard Memorial Weekend event, named for deceased Henry County Rotarian Maynard Knestrick, has been an annual event in Clayton County since the early 1980's. Knestrick, who died five years ago, was an active participant in the Georgia Rotary Student Program, said Ron Corbin, the organizer of the weekend event.
But this year marked the first time the Rotary Club of Clayton County invited its counterparts in Henry County, and the Lake Spivey community (in eastern Clayton County) to participate as co-organizers, Corbin said.
"It's a great family of Rotary event," he said. "Really, the purpose of this event, though, is to provide an informal way of getting the kids together, and relaxing."
The Rotary Club of Clayton County handled registration of students participating in the weekend: a joint meeting of the three clubs on Friday night, and activities at Clayton County International Beach on Saturday morning and afternoon, Corbin said.
Vibha Singla, the Lake Spivey Rotary Club's treasurer and representative in the Maynard Memorial Weekend planning process, said her club sponsored a pizza lunch for the students on Saturday. This is the first time the Lake Spivey club has participated in the event, she said.
The Rotary Club of Henry County sponsored a dinner for the students, followed by an American Idol-inspired competition and overnight dance at Clayton State University, Corbin said. Henry Rotarians, as well as Clayton Rotarians, also hosted some of the visiting students for the weekend. Corbin said Henry Rotarians had been informally involved in the event in the past by hosting participants during the weekend.
Georgia Rotary Student Program participants, who took part in the weekend festivities, said they enjoyed the atmosphere because it was different from the program's first conclave that was held two weeks earlier in Rome.
"Everything was so structured at the first conclave, whereas [on Saturday] we got to hang out, relax and just have fun," said Lauren Reilly, 18, who is attending Shorter College in Rome.
Michael Campbell, a Clayton State University student from Edinburgh, Scotland, who is being hosted by the rotary clubs in Clayton and Henry counties, said he enjoyed a vegetable car race that took place on Saturday afternoon at the Beach, "just because it was fun. Our car sucked, but it was OK."
Gustav Leifland, a Darton college student from Hölluiken, Sweden, said he enjoyed a cardboard-and-duct-tape boating race. "You are building something, and you have to put it in the water to see if it floats," said Leifland, who was on the team that built the "Sexy Lil Kiwi."
Columbus State University student Rashel Asfour, a native of Beirut, Lebanon, said she enjoyed playing an impromptu beach volleyball game, "because it's fun, and we need to keep in shape."
As the clock ticked down to the final event of the beach activities, the cardboard boat race, Marc Boyd's team changed plans by quickly folding up, and duct-taping, the sides of the "Sexy Lil Kiwi." It had become a floating cardboard box, completely covered in duct tape on the bottom, instead of a sleek rowboat that it was originally planned to become.
Another change was who would be responsible for piloting the vessel. "Since I was responsible for the disaster that my team's ship became, my teammates decided that I should be the one who pilots it," Lauren Reilly said.
The "Sexy Lil Kiwi" made it 20 yards, before it sank.