The tugboats are back! (8 photos)Saturday, June 30, 2012 by: Jordan Allard
What started out as a grudge match between friends has turned into an event for the whole family benefiting a good cause.
While today the 31st annual Great Tugboat Race may be known as a charitable event geared towards fun for the entire clan, Jeff Avery shed some light on the disagreement which has led to dollars for disabled children in our community.
"It all started as a grudge match," said Avery. "My father Howard and his friends decided to settle a bet at Gros Cap."
In 1982, Howard Avery, along with Don Delayer and Al Bourgond, held their own tugboat race with a small wager between friends on the line.
Avery was inspired by a handicapped niece to use the event as a means of raising money for disabled children in the Sault Ste. Marie area in need of financial assistance.
Some 30-plus years later and over $200,000 raised, children in need have been cashing in on the event inspired by a gamble between comrades.
The annual event is still a big hit in the Avery family - who showed up for Friday night's social with their nearly 70-year-old boat Regan.
"It's as big as Christmas in our family," said Avery. "Anytime you can get the entire family together it's a really special."
Looking around Roberta Bondar Marina it was easy to see the Avery's weren't the only clan in attendance.
"It's a great opportunity to get together with family and friends," said Kevin Ullrich (shown above), on his boat Cobra with son Nicholas (left) and friend Brandon (right). "This event definitely has a family oriented feel to it."
This year's edition of the Great Tugboat Race will have a slight change in schedule; the traditional Friday evening boat show has been moved to Saturday afternoon.
"We decided to incorporate everything into one day to make it a bigger and better day for everybody," said Landon Odom, tugboat event committee member
The event kicks off with a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning from 7 to 11 a.m. at the barge behind the Norgoma and then at noon the tugboat show will begin at Clergue Park.
Shortly after the boat show wraps up, the tugboat race competitors are split into heats based on the size and power of their boat for the annual race along St. Mary's River.
Odom set they will also have inflatable bounce house and slides set-up for children, along with a BBQ stand and refreshments.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Great Tugboat Race's charity.
Odom said they use money to support local children with disabilities in need of financial aide.
"A family might write to us seeking money to help buy a lifting device to help their child get in and out of a bathtub or a mobile device to help them move around their house and that's where we come in," he said.
Additional information is available online at www.ssm.