By Terry Duffy
Planning for the all-new Great Contraption Race of 2018 is now starting to come together.
Last held in July 2016 on the lower Niagara River in Lewiston, this year's GCR will take place Sunday, June 10, on the Buffalo River off the Riverworks waterfront complex at 359 Ganson St., in downtown Buffalo.
The move of this on-water favorite from the lower Niagara to the Buffalo River follows the February relocation announcement of the host nonprofit, the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, from Lewiston to downtown Buffalo.
Currently, the Alexa Foundation is in the process of relocating from its Center Street offices to Buffalo. Once complete, the foundation's new address will be 726 Exchange St., Suite 820 B, Buffalo - in the Larkin complex. A grand-opening is expected this spring.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kate J. Fowler, executive director of the Alexa Foundation, reported organizing is now underway for the June race. A meeting was held recently at Riverworks, the staging point for this year's GCR, where a handful of enthusiastic volunteers from the River Region attended to review plans, share ideas, etc.
"We discussed a wide variety of topics," Fowler said.
Among those covered, according to Fowler, were a host of preliminary logistical items. These included the race course route itself, one that is expected to go on the Buffalo River from the Riverworks site out past Canalside to the mouth of Lake Erie and return; and working with officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Buffalo, who will be authorizing the issuance of required permits.
Also, such primary areas as establishing a working budget, including sponsorships; which target groups to consider for participation in the race; determining an actual race course; establishing race rules and criteria for presentation of awards to the race heat winners; and side events such as the after-party, plus a live or basket auction at the event.
A significant consideration for Alexa Foundation organizers involves the promotional, sponsorship and advertising elements of the race, Fowler said.
Included are the actual promoting of the GCR's new venue - namely how to recapture the significant past interest/participation that helped grow the Lewiston races, and what demographics organizers need to target with its move to the new Riverworks/Buffalo River location.
As to actual contraption promotion, "There was a discussion about a contraption and video by Ashley Warren (of Village Hardware in Lewiston) that was used to promote the event previously," Fowler said. "Riverworks will consider our request to set up a contraption to promote (this) event."
She added, "As always, sponsorships are huge" for this type of event.
With that in mind, Fowler announced the Alexa Foundation has prepared a range of corporate sponsorship levels for the 2018 GCR. The package includes:
•Admiral Sponsor - $10,000. This includes: Recognition as a sponsor of It Happened to Alexa; public recognition in media releases and on the IHTAF website; full-page advertisement in the Great Contraption Race programs; three entries for the Great Contraption Race; and tickets for 10 guests to the Raising the Stakes Gala.
•Captain Sponsor - $5,000. Includes: Recognition as a sponsor of It Happened to Alexa; public recognition in media releases and on the IHTAF website; full-page advertisement in the Great Contraption Race programs; two entries for the Great Contraption Race; and tickets for eight additional guests to the Great Contraption Race event.
•Commander Sponsor - $2,500. Includes: recognition as a sponsor of Great Contraption Race event; public recognition in media releases and on the IHTAF website; full-page advertisement in the Great Contraption Race program; One boat entry for the Great Contraption Race; and tickets for six additional guests to the Great Contraption Race event.
•First Mate Sponsor - $1,000. Includes: recognition as a sponsor of the Great Contraption Race event; public recognition in media releases and on the IHTAF website; half-page advertisement in the Great Contraption Race program; one boat entry for the Great Contraption Race; and tickets for four additional guests to the Great Contraption Race event.
•Crew Sponsor - $500. Includes: recognition as a sponsor of the Great Contraption Race event; public recognition in media releases and on the IHTAF website; half-page advertisement in the Great Contraption Race program; and tickets for two additional guests to the Great Contraption Race event.
Additional recognition opportunities available to all sponsors include mentions on social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram); banners at each of the aforementioned events; tabletop tents that recognize sponsorships; company/organization logo on take-away items made for events, such as T-shirts, bags, etc.; and logo on donor recognition presentation slides.
The foundation noted additional opportunities will be announced as they become available and as appropriate for each event.
Closing, Fowler spoke enthusiastically of the GCR's move from the lower Niagara to Buffalo River and invited interested parties from throughout Buffalo-Niagara to become part of another on-water happening.
"I am so excited about this opportunity to bring back a favorite event, The Great Contraption Race!" she said. "While I realize there are some changes, like the location, I think it will still be the same family-friendly and exciting event as it was before, and I look forward to being a part of it with all of you!"
She invited those interested in participating in planning for this year's GCR to attend the next Contraption Race meeting, starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, at Buffalo Riverworks.
As to registration for the upcoming GCR, Fowler said she expects a full range of details to be available by April 1 on the Alexa Foundation website, www.ithappenedtoalexa.org
"If anyone is interested in learning more, feel free to contact me in the interim," she said.
In the meantime, she announced plans this month for a wine tasting fundraiser, with proceeds to benefit the Alexa Foundation. Hosted by Kevin LoVullo of WGRZ-TV Channel 2's "Spiel the Wine," the taste event will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at the Embassy Suites, 200 Delaware Ave., in downtown Buffalo. Tickets are priced at $25 per person and include wine selected by LoVullo, plus light appetizers. Tickets can be purchased on the foundation's website at http://www.ithappenedtoalexa.org/events/wine-tasting.html.
"Should be a really nice night," Fowler said.