by Terry Duffy
The days are drawing ever so closer to an all-new event taking place in the lower Niagara River.
Called the Great Contraption Race, it's a unique on-water competition presented by the It Happened to Alexa Foundation of Lewiston. To run Saturday, Aug. 2, this rather unusual happening continues to catch the interest of would-be participants, almost as soon as they hear of it.
"Coming along nicely," says Ellen Augello, executive director of the It Happened Alexa Foundation, of race sign-ups thus far.
Sponsored by WGRZ-TV Channel 2, Cumulus Media Inc., Certo Brothers and Niagara Frontier Publications, this river event has had close to 40 register, Augello reports. Proceeds will go to benefit the works of the Alexa Foundation, a 501(c) nonprofit, which supports sexual assault victims in courtrooms throughout the country.
So what exactly is this Great Contraption Race?
First reported in Niagara Frontier Publications late last year, the Contraption Race, as it's come to be known in local circles, is a unique water competition and brainchild of a group of Youngstown area boaters with a bent on the fun side.
Geared for the adventurous as well as the imaginative, the race will see two- and four-person teams competing in amphibious, yet creative, self-constructed watercraft in a downriver race for points and fun. There's even a kayak division for those so inclined.
And costumed participants with themed contraptions are highly encouraged.
Augello reports that, as part of the Great Contraption Race festivities, an exclusive VIP sunset reception and cruise will be featured on Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours' new river paddleboat, the Niagara Belle, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 31.
The race itself will take place rain or shine, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, in the lower Niagara between Lewiston and Youngstown. Race participants will depart from the launch area at the Lewiston sand docks near The Silo Restaurant and follow a designated course in U.S. waters down river to the south docks in Youngstown near the Youngstown Yacht Club.
Once floating and underway, race participants are expected to do their best to maintain buoyancy and compete against others.
Throughout this race, which is sanctioned and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, the safety of participants will be the utmost concern, organizers note. Upwards of 15 boats and 10 jet skis with safety personnel aboard are expected along the race course to assist the teams, and 10 lifeguards and assorted medical personnel will be positioned throughout the course.
VIP viewing of this event will be available at select locations along the river, and an enjoyable post-race party and awards presentation follows from noon to 6 p.m. at Veterans Park in Youngstown.
Augello invites all from throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area to experience this first hand. Public viewing will be available at both the start in Lewiston, at mid-point at Joseph Davis State Park, and the finish at the Youngstown docks. And plan to attend the Veterans Park party, which will feature hot dogs and beer, a barbecue by The Brickyard Pub & B.B.Q, entertainment coordinated by Dave Thurman and friends, an onsite Jenga game, plus assorted exhibits, onsite vendors and other attractions.
And all are welcome to join in for a good cause.
"We're still looking for teams," says Augello, adding that entry is open to just about anyone - colleges, local companies, police and fire agencies, the military, youth groups, professionals, plus a literal host of others.
Want to join in the fun?
Entry forms, complete race details - including the post race celebration in Youngstown - plus sponsorship information and more can all be found at www.thegreatcontraptionrace.com.
Mark Aug. 2 on your calendars and get ready for the Great Contraption Race.