The Rock River Anything That Floats Race – Revival on the River

Around Christmastime in 1975, a DJ from a Rockford, IL radio station was challenged to come up with a way to celebrate the 4th of July the following summer, during America’s Bicentennial year of 1976.

Many cocktails later at a local watering hole, the Rock River Raft Race was born. The race became an uber-popular event for participants and visitors alike that attracted more than hundreds of thousands of spectators and thousands of contestants to the Rock River from 1976 until 1999, when it was ignominiously sunk due to liability worries.

In 2016, a group of volunteers from GrahamSpencer, Prairie Street Brewing Co, Midwest Family Broadcasting, the Rockford Park District, the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Rock River Times decided to bring back the annual summertime extravaganza. We christened the all-new Rock River Anything That Floats Race that very summer.

At GrahamSpencer, it has been our pleasure to create the revived event’s brand identity, advertising and social media elements, website, merchandise, event signage, unique beer barrel trophies, and other creative communications tools.

We’ve employed design, pithy headlines, photography, video, illustration and smart strategies in an effort to exhort people in the new millennium to climb aboard an old-school event that requires equal measures of ingenuity, elbow grease and seaworthiness.

We’re proud to have played a small role in reviving a cool memory that made so many people so happy for so many years. It’s fun to watch today’s participants plying the old river’s waters with their custom-designed, hand-made rafts – smiling and paddling like it’s 1999 – particularly young people like those in 2018’s “Spirit of Survival” documentary short. And, it’s been great to work with all the other generous and energetic volunteer teammates on such a treasured community event.

How about you, matey? If you live in the Rockford Region, perhaps it’s time you and your friends or co-workers got your ship together and enter the Rock River Anything That Floats Race!