Teams, sponsors invited to be part of Great Contraption Race
by Terry Duffy
All right, you're past dealing with the winter to forget. Planning for summer? How about something well, a little different?
Ever hear of the Great Contraption Race?
Well, it's - a race involving contraptions.
This first-of-its-kind happening will take place rain or shine at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, in the lower Niagara River between Lewiston and Youngstown. Briefly put, it's a new type of on-river competition/social experience to benefit the It Happened to Alexa Foundation.
According to its Youngstown and Lewiston organizers, the race will involve "floating contraptions" - land and seaworthy vessels constructed out of recyclables. Participants will pay an entry fee for the opportunity to create their own "contraption" and compete in a race down river. The contraption could be made of, well, almost anything that's floatable. Teams of two or four would provide the human power to race 6.2 miles downriver from Lewiston to Youngstown and compete against other teams for points.
Some liken this river experience to a long-ago social event called the "ya 'gotta regatta."
This popular activity took place way back in the late '70s-early '80s and involved tubers and others in home-made water crafts, "boats" rafts, etc., oftentimes in various states of libation, cruising down river from Lewiston to Youngstown. The "regatta" proved short-lived (for obvious reasons), but its memories carry on among for a number of locals to this very day.
Those memories also likely clicked with Great Contraption Race organizers from Lewiston and Youngstown who toyed about this idea last winter in their planning. As they considered a worthy beneficiary the Alexa Foundation - a national charity based in Lewiston that assists rape victims and their families nationally with legal expertise - became the obvious choice.
Together they went to work, first gaining approval of the U.S. Coast Guard to hold this type of event in the lower river. Not an easy task, especially considering Homeland Security concerns, and the navigation issues of holding an event such as this in a river, and being in a border area.
With a marine event permit secured from U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Brian W. Roche, captain of the Port, Sector Buffalo, logistical planning intensified over past weeks and months. Committees were formed, tasks assigned and carried out. Working with the Alexa Foundation, soon came the cooperation of local municipalities and law enforcement, plus interest from community groups and business support throughout the Lewiston and Youngstown areas and beyond.
The result is a truly unique social happening and benefit event. In planning are such activities as pre-event drink/eat promotions with Lewiston area bars and restaurants, a dinner/cocktail river cruise, a VIP celebration for sponsors at select addresses in the lower river area, the race itself, plus what's billed as a great after-race party at Veterans Park in Youngstown.
Sponsored by WGRZ TV Channel 2, Cumulus Media Inc. and Niagara Frontier Publications, interest continues to build on many fronts.
Ellen Augello, executive director of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, reports that contacts and the invites are now extending far and wide throughout the Buffalo, Western New York and Southern Ontario regions for participants. "We're really looking for teams," she said, adding that invites have been going out to area colleges, local companies, police and military members, youth groups and others to participate.
Likening this experience to the long established and popular Corporate Challenge that takes place each summer in Delaware Park in Buffalo, Augello said, "We'd love for this to grow into something like that." She said thus far about 16 teams have signed up, and organizers are aiming for upwards of 60 teams competing this year.
"We're sending out our second wave of 1,100 invites throughout the area," said Augello. "Thus far the response has been pretty good."
As an enticement to would-be teams, Augello says that WGRZ Channel 2's "WNY Living" with Janet Snyder will feature select team participants of the race on its July 17 show. Augello said teams are invited to submit photos of their contraptions when complete and the truly unique versions with their creators will be considered for an appearance on the show. "Teams are encouraged to submit photos," said Augello. "Let's get creative and have fun."
As to the race itself, organizers wish to share the following details for would-be entrants:
•The race will involve floating amphibious contraptions designed and built by each team. The contraptions must be custom made by the participants and their teams. The contraption must be able to float, and it can only be powered by human power and/or a man-made sail to race down river.
•The contraptions will need to be either carried by teams, or rolled on portable or affixed wheels by the teams and their support crews into the Niagara River at the starting point of the race, located at the public boat ramp, adjacent to The Silo Restaurant at the Lewiston docks.
•Teams will have two minutes to enter the water from the start gate, as another team will be waiting right behind.
•The contraption must be able to travel down the Niagara River 6.2 miles (9.97 km) from the starting point in Lewiston downriver on to the Youngstown south docks near the Youngstown Yacht Club. There the contraption must then be carried or rolled out of the river by each team with their support crew's help (teams are allowed to have as many support members as they need). Once out of the water the contraption must then be carried, or rolled up hill to Main Street and continue a half-mile (.80km) in the village to the finish line at Veterans Park.
Race organizers note that points will be given for creativity, those that finish, those that don't, and all participants will be timed from start to finish.
Speaking of being creative, costumes and themed contraptions are highly encouraged, as one of the multiple team awards that can be won will be for creativity and showmanship.
An after-race party featuring foods, beverages, activities and entertainment will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Park. There, organizers and participants will celebrate a fun-filled race event with music and awards for team competitors and their support crews. Veterans Park will also be open to spectators that day.
Augello notes that Great Contraption Race entry forms are now available at www.thegreatcontraptionrace.com.
Support levels for race participants include:
•Contraption - a $150 fee provides for one entry with up to four team members. Included is four bracelets for an after barbecue event at Veterans Park, plus eight tickets for a soft drink or beer (over 21 only) and four official GCR T-shirts.
•Barnacle - $25 per person - for contraption building helpers and a team's cheering section. Fee includes one bracelet for the barbecue, an official GCR T-shirt, two drink tickets and a VIP viewing area ticket. Additional meal bracelets will be available for $15 per person and include the barbecue and soft drink.
Augello reports a number of sponsorship opportunities are available to area businesses and corporate organizations interested in becoming part of this unique event. Levels include Event, $2,000; Gold, $3,000; Platinum, $4,000 and Presenting Sponsor, $5,000. Packages include a participating team of two to four members, plus assorted enticements for businesses depending on their level.
"We'd like to cultivate a committee relationship with our corporate partners to develop the Great Contraption Race on an annual basis and build a national reach," said Augello. She invites interested parties to contact her at 716-754-9105.
In addition, Augello continues to enlist the interest of Lewiston area businesses, restaurants and organizations in planning for this event. She reports that an informational meeting will be held Wednesday, April 30, at 7 p.m. at The Stone House, 755 Center St., Lewiston, and area residents and business interests are invited.
For more information, visit www.thegreatcontraptionrace.com or contact Augello at 716-754-9105.