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 50,000 spectators and hundreds of contestants annually to the Rock River from 1976 until about 1999, when it ignominiously sunk due to liability concerns.

In 2016, a group of volunteers from Prairie Street Brewing Co, Midwest Family Broadcasting, the Rockford Park District, the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Rock River Times and GrahamSpencer decided it was time 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, website, merchandise, event signage, unique beer barrel trophies, and other communications tools.

We’ve employed fine photography, video, illustration, design, pithy headlines 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.

It’s satisfying to know we’ve played a small role in reviving such 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. And, it’s been great to work with all our other 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 entered the Rock River Anything That Floats Race!