The third annual Great Contraption Race, held Saturday to benefit the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, may have been smaller in the number of entries this year, but the enthusiasm of its participants and the creativity of the contraptions more than made up for it.
"We didn't get quite as many contraptions as previous years - I know ... it's a busy time of year - but the contraptions we do have are spectacular," said Sandra Lahrache, acting executive director of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation.
The race began in the Niagara River with excited participants and creative floats representing both sides of the border. Hundreds gathered both above on Water Street and below on the Lewiston sand docks to watch. A well-organized flotilla of Alexa Foundation race volunteers, on shore and riding jet skies and boats on the river, ferried the contraptions to various staging points in the lower river area, and the race was off.
Throughout the nearly 8-mile event, safety volunteers under the watchful eyes of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Border Patrol and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office monitored and assisted the contraptions on water, where needed. Due to stiff northwest winds encountered coming off Lake Ontario that morning, the racecourse had to be slightly shortened as it neared Youngstown, with a number of entries needing assistance by safety boats as they headed toward the Youngstown south docks.
Nevertheless, the race was completed without incident - save for a number of exhausted contraption riders as they neared shore.
"I feel like I got hit by a truck today," commented GCR Team 584 participant Laura Keller Petko, aptly summing up the feelings of many. "Every muscle hurts and I have bruises all over! Feeling the burn. Lol."
Race awards were presented at the Falkner Park post-race party in Youngstown. Winners included:
•Grand Champion - Loonies-on-the Lake
•Most Creative - Team Fort Niagara
•Most Innovative - Tetnossi
•Fastest Time - Castaway, The Lewiston-Porter Sentinel
•People's Choice - Team 584, Lower Niagara Moose Lodge, The Flintstone Mobile.
Alexa Foundation officials expressed their appreciation to the volunteer staff who coordinated this year's event, and to the dozens onboard the creative contraptions that made this year's event another success.
"Awesome event! Thanks to the hard work of the dedicated staff and volunteers of IHTA!" commented Casey Branchini of the Alexa Foundation. "The organization would not stay 'afloat' without all of you!" (Photos by Glenn Clark and Terry Duffy)