By Terry Duffy
A new race registration format; an improved post-race party location; an all-new promotional effort and merchandising ideas, including a new T-shirt design; an all-new gala; and an exciting new raffle ticket offering.
These were just a few of the new items discussed last week by organizers of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation's Great Contraption Race. Marking its third year in 2016, the on-water race happening, which features self-powered, creative amphibious contraptions floating down the lower Niagara from Lewiston to Youngstown will take place on the morning of Saturday, July 30.
"We have plenty to discuss tonight, new exciting ideas," led off Sandra Lahrache, acting executive director of the Alexa Foundation, to the nearly dozen volunteers gathered. Among the news makers:
•Permits have been secured from the U.S. Coast Guard and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, with support from the villages of Lewiston and Youngstown to hold this year's Great Contraption Race.
Just like last year, the race will begin at the Lewiston sand docks and continue down river to the south boat launch at Fort Niagara State Park. Watercraft designs are similar to last year's, but there's also a new offering: single tubes. Lahrache said the Coast Guard approved the use of the tubes, which means devices from single auto or truck-size inner tubes to bubble tubes will be permitted.
Visit the Alexa Foundation website (www.alexafoundation.org) and look under the "Great Contraption Race" link for all the information needed to enter, including tube registration requirements.
•A new registration contest is now underway.
Lahrache, joined by new race PR spokesperson Sarah Joslin, informed that, in an effort to spur earlier sign-ups, those registering for the GCR prior to June 15 would have their name entered to win a $200 cash prize, courtesy of race volunteers John and Janet DiFiore of Youngstown. Visit the website for details on signing-up online. Payments can be made via PayPal, credit card or check.
Race officials also announced they will pursue a far greater effort to "spread the word" about this year's Great Contraption Race in the Lewiston-Youngstown areas to build participation. Joslin said they are actively seeking volunteers to man tables to coordinate sign-ups at outdoor events this summer, including "Blue Mondays" at Hennepin Park, the Lewiston GardenFest and the Youngstown Street Dance.
Lahrache introduced a new T-shirt design created by artist Rich DeCorsi that the group hopes to use in its outdoor GCR promotions in coming months.
Those interested in participating in the volunteer promotion effort can contact the Alexa Foundation at 754-2210, 754-9105 or 1-877-77-ALEXA.
•An exciting raffle offering.
Lahrache said this year's grand-prize will feature a five-day/four-night Sonoma, California, Wine Country vacation, with round-trip airfare by CGB Ventures and Delta Airlines. Valued at $4,000, tickets are now on sale at $10 each or $100 for 15 tickets. The lucky winner will be able to use the trip over the next year.
"This is a five-star VRBO residence rated at one of the top 10 places to stay in Sonoma," Lahrache said.
Tickets may be purchased from race committee volunteers or by visiting the website for more information.
•A casino-type gala. Lahrache said the new "Raising the Stakes" gala, which replaces last year's sunset cruise, will be held Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Sheraton at the Falls.
"This is a fantasy casino fundraiser presented by Uptown Entertainment," Lahrache said. "The event will have a VIP reception with an open bar and a tutorial on how to play the games."
Included will be poker tables, craps, roulette, a ring toss with wine bottle and "so much more," Lahrache said. She added the event will feature a variety of basket raffles, plus auction and select high-end raffle items, with proceeds going to the GCR program.
•A new venue for the post-race party.
Joslin said that, following discussions with race officials and the Village of Youngstown, Falkner Park on Main Street would be the new location for the post-race party.
"Sandy has spoken with the village and they are going to work out the parking and shuttle services for the Party in the Park," Joslin said.
The committee also discussed enlisting the participation of area businesses and a new format for voting at the park event. Among the ideas, a ballot booth would be on site for voting, three prizes would be offered and a voting for a special "People's Choice Award" would be offered.
At this juncture, planning continues among committee members for this year's race, with more meetings planned. For more details, visit the newly created Great Contraption Race pages on Facebook and Instagram, or contact IHTAF officials via the foundation website.