Hundreds enjoy second annual event in Niagara River
By Terry Duffy
The second annual Great Contraption Race, held last Saturday in the lower Niagara between Lewiston and Youngstown, may have been slow in its development over past months. But once under way, this unique race event held to benefit the educational and outreach programs of the It Happen to Alexa Foundation - much like the vessels mastering the river's waters - managed to overcome its growing pains quite well.
The Great Contraption Race led off with an enjoyable Thursday evening affair July 30 - a Land Lubber's reception at the Barton Hill Hotel & Spa, followed by a three-hour VIP cruise complete with music, foods and drink aboard the Niagara Belle paddleboat in the lower Niagara.
On a bright, sunny, but breezy Saturday morning, a total of 28 entries participated in the 6.2-mile run that went down river from the sand docks in Lewiston to the Fort Niagara State Park boat launch. The enthusiasm was evident in this one - from the hundreds gathered on the docks and Water Street near The Silo, to the 110-plus who participated in the four-person contraptions in the river, to the many more assembled on shore to view the event from Lewiston to Youngstown.
And the contraptions? Wow - very creative to say the least. In fact, there were many, many, many standouts in this one. Some notables: "Black Stallions" - a Viking-esqe creation with dragon head, swords, shields and four nomads; "The Magical Mystery Tour" - a floating vessel complete with Beatles music; and "S.S. Nessy" - a Loch Ness monster creation by Team 584 from Lower Niagara Moose Lodge 584 in Lewiston.
Still more were "Rubber Duckies," "Pretty in Pink," "Happy Gilmores," the "Kiwanis Peach Pirates," "Garbage Pail Kids," "Sea Nyle" and the "S.S. Sentinel" - a novel creation representing Niagara Frontier Publications.
"We could not be more thrilled with the enthusiasm and support for the second annual Great Contraption Race," said Ellen Augello, executive director of the Alexa Foundation.
The following were singled out as the standout winners by this year's GCR committee at a post-race party Saturday afternoon at Fort Niagara State Park:
•First in timed finish - "Happy Gilmore," sponsored by Steve's Heating & Cooling; built by Niagara Frontier Golf Club; skippered by the Iozzo family. Finishing second was "The Pony Express" while the "S.S. Sentinel" finished third.
•Most Innovative - "Black Stallions," built and skippered by Mike and Laura Petko, Ryan Carney and Laura DuMoulin.
•Most Creative - "The Magical Mystery Four," sponsored by Carol Calato, Regal Tip; built by Barry Thorpe, Tom Burrows and Michael Richards; skippered by Michelle Reichert, Didi Litt, Kris Richards and Barry Thorpe.
•Best Overall - "Pony Express" sponsored, built and skippered by Precious Plate employees Daniel T. Dunmire, Thomas J. Dunmire, Bill Wallace and Tim Curcione.
•Peoples Choice (by applause) - A contraption named and sponsored by Logo Stuff; built by Kevin and JoEllen Mearable; skippered by Bailey Goodwin, Aubrey Goodwin, Sara Haseley and Whitney Atkins.
•Top Individual Fundraiser and favorite by the Alexa Foundation staff and board - "My Blue Haven," sponsored by Hebeler LLC; built and skippered by Jeffery and Michelle Stevens; skippered by John Stewart and Shane Vanstrom.
In a statement this week, Augello and Sandra Larache, Alexa Foundation director of educational outreach programs, extended thanks to the municipalities, agencies, organizations and individuals whose combined efforts made this event a success.
"We would like to thank the villages of Lewiston and Youngstown, Fort Niagara State Park, our major sponsors - Niagara Sunset Cruises, Certo Brothers, Hebeler LLC, Prudential (and) all our participants and spectators," they said. "This community amazes us every year with the support they offer. The businesses and residents are always very generous with the Alexa Foundation. We are very grateful to everyone who assisted in making this event a success.
"We would be remiss if we did not thank our committee whom begin working on this event almost a year out; they are a remarkable group of people. ... Without all their help, we could not coordinate an event of this size.
"Although exact totals are not in, we feel confident that we have exceeded last year's total - all to benefit our educational outreach programs in Western New York."
For more on the It Happened to Alexa Foundation and its programs, visit http://www.ithappenedtoalexa.org.