Mark Saturday, Aug. 1, on your calendars. It's the day for the second annual Great Contraption Race, taking place on the lower Niagara between Lewiston and Youngstown.
Presented by the It Happened to Alexa Foundation of Lewiston, the Great Contraption Race is an opportunity to return to the good-old days. The days of simple fun with friends and family when soapbox derbies and playing outside until the streetlights came on was the norm, according to Ellen Augello, Alexa Foundation executive director.
The GCR was born out of a desire to involve the community. Augello said Alexa Foundation staff and volunteers were rethinking options for their annual dinner (then in its 10th year). Though it had a great track record of success, that event was only available to supporters able to pay the ticket price.
An effort was made to create an event that would welcome all ages and economic levels. And the GCR, which offers both options, began.
This year's GCR will feature a July 30 kick-off sunset cruise aboard the Niagara Belle.
For those who prefer the less formal, put on your flip-flops and bathing suits or costumes and float down the Niagara River next Saturday.
"Last year, the inaugural event attracted students, grandparents, young families and everyone in-between! This is what we were striving for," Augello said. "The Alexa Foundation assists victims of sexual assault at any age; therefore we want our events to spread our message to the same diverse age groups."
Augello said funds raised at other Alexa Foundation events in Boston, Palm Beach, Florida, and Houston go directly to victim support. The GCR is slightly different in that most proceeds from this event go to the Alexa Foundation's Western New York educational outreach program. Now in its fourth year, the program teaches young adults personal safety and healthy relationships.
Educational director Sandra Lahrache, along with her certified therapy dog, Lilly, has presented to more than 6,000 students this year. She said the educational outreach program continues to grow, but funding continues to be scarce.
"Every school we have presented to wants us back, but we can't continue providing this service for free," Lahrache said, noting the Alexa Foundation has been able to continue the program through local fundraising and grants from Grigg-Lewis and Precious Plate.
"Statistics prove that continued education to young adults regarding healthy relationships and the meaning of consent lowers the risk of becoming a victim of abuse, sexual assault or even a becoming a perpetrator," Lahrache said. "I know our outreach is making a difference; I see it every time I have a class evaluate their experience."
The sunset cruise begins with a landlubber reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at The Barton Hill Hotel & Spa, 100 Center St. The event moves to the Niagara Belle for a river cruise from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Cost is $150 per person for the cruise, while the reception is $25.
Niagara Sunset Cruise, Certo Brothers and The Barton Hill Hotel & Spa sponsor the event.
The contraption race launches from the Lewiston public docks at 11 a.m. Saturday. Participants will float downriver to the boat launch at Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown. Spectators are welcome to stop along River Road at any of the private residences that have opened up yards and docks for viewing. Look for viewing signs, or stop at any of the open public areas.
The after-party will run from noon to 5 p.m. at Fort Niagara State Park. This event is open to all, and the park's normal gate fee will be waived for GCR race spectators and participants.
The party includes music by CLYDE and the Dave Thurman Trio plus food, beer, wine, face-painting, a petting zoo and a car show.
Prizes will be given in the following categories:
•Most Innovative - This includes an alternate propulsion component or extraordinary design on the entry.
•Most Creative - This includes overall contraption theme and participant costumes.
•First In - The fastest timed finish from the start in water to the end.
•Top Individual Fundraiser - This recognizes funds raised in addition to the team fee.
•People's Choice - Those attending the after-party will vote on the contraption they like best.
•Best Overall - This is the accumulation of all categories - time, design and theme.
Sign-ups continue for this year's race. Go to www.ithappenedtoalexa.org or call 716-754-9105 for more information.