Thousands of spectators lined the banks of the Blue River in downtown Breckenridge on Saturday, perching on rocks along the shore, setting up chairs and laying out blankets at the Riverwalk Center lawn.
Children slurped on ice cream, giggling and chatting with their families in anticipation of the Summit Foundation’s annual rubber duck race. At 1 p.m., the audience started a countdown. As they finished shouting “One,” firefighters from the Red, White and Blue Fire District — hanging above the water on the truck’s ladder — released about 800 brightly colored ducks into the water below.
The Comcast Kids Duck Dash was one of three races held throughout the day. This kick-off race was just for kids and included more than 40 prizes. Later in the day, little yellow swimmers floated through the water for the Business Battle Duck Race. In that one, ducks purchased by local organizations and businesses competed for group-oriented prizes. The main event, The Great Rubber Duck race, saw 10,000 quackers from Main Street Station streaming for the finish line, and the top 50 duck owners were awarded prizes.
Race-goers also enjoyed children’s activities, food and beverage booths and live music throughout the course of the day.
This year marked the 26th anniversary of the duck race and fundraiser.
“It is one of the oldest and largest in the country,” said Elisabeth Lawrence, the foundation’s race coordinator. “We look forward to this every year.”
The Wheeler and Kidman families were the first to stake out a spot on the Riverwalk Center lawn Saturday morning. They said they come to the duck races every year from Colorado Springs.
“We like the entire environment — watching people and being by the water and the mountains,” Lonnie Wheeler said. “We love it up here.”
Not only do the duck races serve as a fun community event with prizes for winners, they are also a major fundraiser.
The Summit Foundation raises about $100,000 for more than 90 area nonprofits through the event, Lawrence said.
“This is our largest fundraiser. It’s also the largest fundraiser in the county,” she said. “There’s not another event that raises as much money or involves as many people.”
The foundation distributes its funds to nonprofit organizations in Summit and neighboring counties that speciale in arts and culture, education, environment, health and human services and sports and recreation. The foundation also contributed almost $200,000 in scholarships last year, Lawrence said.
The foundation raised about $2.2 million total last year, she said. Some of these funds come from high-dollar donations.
“There are people who can’t do that, but just about everybody can buy a $5 duck,” Lawrence said.
Buying a duck really can make a difference, she said.
“It’s a way the whole community can get involved, help out the Summit Foundation and help out all of these nonprofits.”