Tag Archives: Staples High School Interact Club

The Great Race: From Disco Days To Ducks

For a number of years, Sunrise Rotary has sponsored a Great Duck Race. It’s a fun fundraiser — you bet on rubber duckies that are dumped into the Saugatuck River. The day is filled with kids’ activities like a bouncy house, a climbing wall and dunk tank.

This year’s event — on Saturday, June 13 — will be preceded by a 5K run, sponsored by Staples High School’s Interact community service club.

It’s a wonderful town event — something that makes money for good causes, and brings plenty of Westporters together.

But those who were here back in the day remember its predecessor: the Great Race. That was to the current incarnation as Gloria Gaynor is to Taylor Swift.

You don’t believe me? Check out this video.

You can see 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.)

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

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.

Running down Taylor Place, to the start at the Post Road bridge.

Running down Taylor Place, to the boat launch at the Post Road bridge.

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.”

See you June 13 at the Great Duck Race!

Paddling ...

Paddling …

...and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

…and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

*YouTube says the video is from 1977. However, the bicentennial flag, and several comments, would indicate it is actually from 1976.

(Hat tips: Jack Whittle, Ted Friedman, Rich Stein)