Song of the Raft Race

18 Oct

Deal with it; summer is over! It’s totally fall! We know this because of the 400 Facebook invitations to different Halloween things at Mary’s that arrived over the past 24 hours, and because our most recent Georgia Power bill was in the double digits, and because we wistfully tucked away our river swimsuits and crusty river sandals for safekeeping until next year’s tubing trips. The Chattahoochee River is fun and disgusting and and there’s nothing quite as free in the winter. The Chattahoochee River is still (sub)urban and not too far away and definitely not the Chattooga, the real river of Deliverance. The Chattahoochee is no Mississippi River but it has still provoked the writing of terrible songs and beautiful poems, and vice versa.

Most importantly, the Chattahoochee River did not give anyone flesh-eating bacteria this summer, which still seems unbelievable.

If you are already looking for holiday gifts already and want to continue celebrating the Hooch, may we direct you to this Ramblin’ Raft Race t-shirt that is on Ebay right now for $75?

May 21, 1977. Calvin Cruce (AJC) via GSU

What is the Ramblin’ Raft Race? Well, obviously it’s something that doesn’t exist anymore because the hippies had too much fun with it. And so it was also sponsored by WQXI, sponsor of all things cool in the ’70s in Atlanta like Bike Day.

Every Memorial Day weekend for over a decade, fraternities, clubs/organizations, businesses, groups of friends, and swingin’ singles apartment complexes would make these crappy and/or elaborate rafts and drink and smoke and probably listen to America and Lynyrd Skynyrd way too loudly on their little radios and just float down the river.

May 21, 1977. Calvin Cruce (AJC) via GSU

AJC did a little memorial of the event as did Atlanta magazine (“River Rats,” by Jay Busbee, June 2005).

May 21, 1977. Calvin Cruce (AJC) via GSU

Atlanta has a long and proud history of parades. WE LOVE PARADES! And we love the tradition of parades and their marchers and floats, so don’t try to just start a parade from scratch (VIRGINIA-HIGHLAND) unless you have a true vision and soul and something to celebrate (like the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons), because everyone else already has a great parade. 5Ks and half-marathons and “run/walks” are for making people run/walk down a popular street in a popular neighborhood just for the hell of it. Just invent one of those things and be uninspired and people will somehow still think it’s fun to watch. But this innovative, tacky, nature-mingling river parade needs to come back if the EPA and EPD and riverkeepers will have us (they won’t, we’re sure; just asking). We want to see all our favorite parade characters like the woman with the convertible full of pugs and John Lewis and the gay rockclimbers and those cartoon superheroes made out of boxes and Baton Bob and the intown Montessori schools flailing around on homemade rafts just aimlessly drifting under bridges for 4 hours, communing with the river gods.

Here’s the best set of photos you’ve ever seen in your life, starting with the pictures of couples in flirty graphic tees lounging around on the banks of the river up to the mannequin photos and on and on. Now every single person in Atlanta just wants to be this gal for Halloween and that’s fine.

Previously: You light up my ‘Line!

3 Responses to “Song of the Raft Race”

  1. Lew Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    I regret that I never got the chance to attend. So much of the spirit of the 70s, especially in a city like Atlanta, is either forgotten or downright mocked. Even WQXI’s beloved radio personality has become a tea partier….

  2. Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! Friday, October 19, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    Your post is timely as I have was just recently telling a friend, an Arizona transplant, about the Ramblin’ Raft Race…she said that I needed to blog about it. At age 8, I saw my first naked man while standing with my parents and brothers on the bank next to Rays across from Swinger Central a.k.a RiverBend. A ramshackle float with topless women, a keg and a fat, hairy, blindingly white dude who was pointed in our direction stayed in what seemed like suspended animation for a good 5 minutes. Needless to say, but I will, my eyes were as big as saucers and I got quite the eye-full that day.
    I would love to see a return of the race, if only to to legitimize what might be the ugliest river in this country and spark some interesting conversations with my kids.

  3. Darin (ATLurbanist) (@atlurbanist) Friday, October 19, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Holy crap — what awesome photos of 1977 Atlanta. I especially love the ones of Peachtree Center and the office dudes hanging around outside, but the rafting pics are great too. Thanks for sharing this.

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