Last week’s Friday Flashback featured a 1967 poster It advertised a rally at Town Hall, to “Save Cockenoe Island” (from an electric utility, which wanted to build a nuclear power plant there).
This week’s Flashback also features a poster. It too references an August event — almost exactly 30 years ago today. And — go figure — it too has a strong Cockenoe connection.
Well, check out this video:
There’s a lot of bizarre stuff on YouTube. But this ranks right up there.
In tones befitting Marlon Perkins on “Wild Kingdom” — or, this century, an endangered-species documentary on the National Geographic Channel — a narrator breathlessly describes what seems to be a very odd tradition in our coastal community.
“Just another lazy day along the river in Westport, Connecticut,” the 1977 video begins. “Except that this is the day of the Great Race.”
After describing the event — a 1-mile run, a 3-mile row or paddle out to Cockenoe Island, picking up 1 pound of garbage, then rowing or paddling back for a 1st-place prize of $1,000 — the narrator declares that on Great Race Day, Westport is the center of “high international drama.” (Cut to an interview with an Australian guy.)
There are classic quotes — “We run to the liquor store to get our bodies in shape” — interspersed with vintage shots of downtown, and the not-sure-if-it’s-tongue-in-cheek-or-not description of a team that trained “in a handmade aluminum craft for an entire year, just for this race.”
In fact, I’m not sure if the entire video is serious, a satire, or just a goof. When you see 2 teams fighting over a piece of garbage on Cockenoe, you’ll wonder too.
But — as the narrator notes — “constant seamanship and vigilance” were keys to winning the Great Race.
And, at the end, “the townspeople have come together with their picnic lunches to cheer and debate their favorites. The memories will keep for a whole year.”
It was a tradition that lasted from the ’70s into the ’90s. If you participated in the Great Race — as a boater, a spectator or the guy who delivered the kegs — we’d love to hear what you remember. (If, of course, you remember anything.)
Click “Comments” below. Ahoy!
(Hat tips: Jack Whittle, Ted Friedman, Rich Stein)