The Original Raft Race Was Born On a Cold Winter's Night in 1976.


On a cold January night in 1976, a local radio personality and a British gentleman met at the Sweden House bar and dreamt up the original raft race concept over cocktails. The radio personality mentioned he’d been challenged by radio brass to create a Bicentennial (1976) Fourth of July promotion for the community - and complained he just didn’t know what to do. 

A drink or two later, he and the Brit had concocted a Yanks vs the Brits raft race in honor of the nation’s birth on the beautiful river that bisects our community. They toasted their collaborative creativity that night, and the Rock River Raft Race was born in the summer on July 4, 1976.  

For the first couple years, there were only two boats in the race: the Americans and the Brits. Eventually, registration was opened to the community at large with the new, “Anything That Floats,” concept. Over the years, untold tens of thousands of people participated in the Rock River Raft Race as contestants, volunteers and spectators. In one year alone more than 80,000 people lined the Rock River cheering on the gleeful racers. 

The RRAFTR committee can’t wait to help start a whole new wave of memories. Please join us and be a part of the fun.