RICHMOND — Nate Vintinner is only 15, but he’s already a wily veteran when it comes to skipping across floating lobster crates.

The keys: Get a running start, put down only one foot per crate and run with the speed and light step of a waterbug skipping across hot coals.

“You have to go fast,” Vintinner said. “They sink quick.”

This is the third year in a row that Vintinner has competed in the lobster crate races, which have become a highlight of his hometown’s Richmond Days celebration.

“I got 160 crates my first year,” Vintinner said.

The day-long festivities kicked off at 7 a.m., with a 1-mile community run. A few hours later people lined Main Street for a parade that snaked from the high school, north onto Front Street, left on Kimball Street through Boynton Street, left onto Williams Street and right back onto Main Street before ending up back at the high school.

The parade and crate races punctuated a bevy of family activities centered in Waterfront Park and a closed section of River Road. Other events included a fireman’s muster for children, music, tours of Swan Island, food a-plenty and enough bounce houses, games and slides to wear out the most active of children.

The day was set to culminate with a fireworks display over the Kennebec River.

 Most of the events were free, and families, some from miles away, took advantage.

Some, like Sam Rusak, 13, of Scarborough, chose to try their hands — or feet — racing across the lobster crates floating on the Kennebec River.

Rusak was a rookie at the event when he arrived, but a few tries later he was already skipping his way across all 10 floating crates and even leaving from the last one for a perfect dive into the river.

Rusak said he learned from watching others, like Vintinner, who made it look easy and others who made running on wood crates look more like falling off a log.

“You have to be fast,” Rusak said. “I saw the other kids do it and I just copied them.”

Colton Chubbuck, 10, of Dresden, has raced on the crates the past three years. His technique came back quick and he had already raced across all 10 crates just a few minutes into the competition.

“You don’t stop,” Chubbuck said. “You want to get a running start and go as fast as you can go.”

Rookies tend to be tentative. Lobster crate racing is no time to play it safe, Chubbuck said. You have to let it fly.

“They’re scared of it and they walk to the start,” Chubbuck said, an air of pity in his voice. “They make it to like the third one, it sinks, and they fall off.”

Like Vintinner, Chubbuck plays soccer. Both say the agility and speed required for the sport give them an advantage when it comes to racing across lobster crates.

“It helps with balance,” Vintinner said.

Charity Winokurzew, 15, who runs cross-country at Richmond High School, was asked if the fitness required for that sport translates well into crate racing.

“Not really,” she said with a smile.

She has run the crates the past three years, but unlike Chubbuck, Winokurzew was still working to regain proper form. She struggled to get past the fifth crate.

“You have to get your momentum before you run,” she said.

Winokurzew said the crates seemed to be more slippery than she remembered in previous years.

“When the tip it’s hard to get your grip on them,” she said.

With that she turned to face the crates and give them another try.

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