Glasses of red wine served on upturned sleek rowing shells will be part of the display at Friday's Big Mo' (as in Momentum), Riverfront Recapture's annual fundraiser, billed as the season's most casual parties of the year, the one that celebrates the city and its Connecticut River as a development and recreational resource.
For unlike other years, when the annual fundraiser was held at a building new to the riverfront initiative, this year's will be held at the boathouse at Riverside Park.
"There have been a lot of successes here," said Riverfront's longtime executive director and biggest cheerleader, Joe Marfuggi, about the Riverside Park boathouse. "Our rowing programs are extraordinary and the boathouse brought it together."
Built for $3.6 million, the boathouse is the touchstone for the very successful Community Rowing Program that provides lessons to adults and students, and has become an integral part of an interscholastic instructional program that has attracted several high school and college crew teams from Hartford and beyond. Thanks to donations and grants from organizations including the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Riverfront Recapture has not only provided yet another athletic option for the city's high schoolers, but a chance to grow in other ways as well. It's the student rowers, however, who are making gains far beyond learning how to handle an oar.
"We're not trying to make Olympic rowers out of anybody," said Marfuggi about the rowing program that currently boasts 330 adults and 215 high school students. "We open the students up to a bigger world and help them set more ambitious goals than they might have."
The rowing program also hosts the Adaptive Program for people with disabilities and a Masters Racing team for experienced adults. Student and adults rowers now participate in 16 regattas, including youth and masters national championships.
Party plans are to throw open the doors to give visitors the chance to tour the two-story building that embodies some of what's best about the recreational opportunities the river offers. There will be a VIP reception for patrons and benefactors that will include a buffet, cocktails, and entertainment. Co-chairs for the 2012 Big Mo' are Brian and Susan Clemow.
Besides the party at the boathouse the fundraiser will also offer sightseeing trips along the river on board the Hartford Belle and a fireworks show by PyroVisionsProductions, winners of the 2012 International Fireworks Competition in Montreal.
With the announcement of Infinity Hall's decision to locate on Front Street, the opening of the new movie theaters there, the pending announcement of a new Front street restaurant and the growing success of the Riverwalk network and the activities on the downtown plaza, this year's Big Mo' is expected to draw a larger than usual crowd.
"I want people to get a sense of how this all works," said Marfuggi, referring to other Riverwalk activities such as bike trails, the Riverside Park forest, the Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk and the Riverfront Adventure Challenge.
"I never dreamed of this kind of success," said Marfuggi, who has worked tirelessly to nudge the reconnection between the city and the river.
Individual benefactor tickets are $250 each and patron tickets are $150. For more information call 860-713-3131, ext. 303.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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