Great Dock Canoe Race Stan Douge March 29, 2016 131 Come watch the action for the 40th Annual Great Dock Canoe Race. Wildly decorated canoes compete in multiple races in a celebration of the end of the busy winter season and the start of summer. Each year the race has a theme, which serves as the inspiration for the decorated canoes that compete for the best-dressed $1,000 prize. This year, the theme will be “The Last Dance,” evoking the disco era in which the Great Dock Canoe Race was first launched (1977) and coincidentally a famous 1970’s Donna Summer song. Participants will create their best 1970’s interpretation of the theme in their canoe designs and costumes. Long-time emcee, Vin DePasquale, will be joined for the fourth year by co-emcee Jerry Conti and State Representative Kathleen Passidomo will serve as grand marshal. An important element of the GDCR is the $5,000 grant awarded to a worthy children’s charity each year. This year’s beneficiary will be NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Funds raised from the GDCR will be used to provide mental health screenings and education for local children dealing with mental health issues. Each year NAMI is able to help 16,000 local community members, 90 percent of whom are below the poverty level. Theme boats will parade around Crayton Cove starting at 11:00 a.m. The Race is then run in three heats. First up at 11:45 a.m. is the “Tippycanoe VIP Sprint,” which features canoes paddled by principals of local organizations in a madcap dash through a 700-yard course. Two traditional races follow on the full three-mile course; handicaps for the Male-Female teams (two minutes) and Female-Female teams (four minutes) lend extra excitement to these two races. The Practically Professionals race (competing for the Overall Trophy) sets off at 12:45 p.m., about 15 minutes before the Ambitious Amateurs race (competing for medals), Next Generation race (12-17 year olds and parent/guardian, competing for trophies), and the Truly Tenacious race (both canoeists 65 or above, competing for medals). This means some ‘contra-flow’, as teams pass each other racing in opposite directions – and quite probably some wild stories to tell once everyone’s back over the finish line. Trophies or ribbons are awarded to winners of both heats and to three “Next Generation” and three “Truly Tenacious” teams. An award added in 2013 honors the late Joe Klimas, co-emcee for the first 36 years – “The Joe Klimas Keep On Paddling Award” for family sportsmanship will be presented to one lucky Next Generation Team. The “Broken Paddle” Award honors the late Chuck Bruce, first winner of the award and a great contributor to the GDCR over the years. It recognizes the team that finishes the race while overcoming a significant obstacle – thus the “Broken Paddle” moniker. Winners’ names are hand-painted and added to the permanent collection at The Dock at Crayton Cove. Originally the provenance of the late Jerry Vallez, who painted the Race’s first 36 years of broken paddles, this year local artist Natalie Guess will be ‘picking up the brush’ again for this time-honored tradition of paddle painting.