Breckenridge’s Blue River runs yellow this weekend with Great Rubber Duck Race | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge’s Blue River runs yellow this weekend with Great Rubber Duck Race

After more than 360 days in a dark, top-secret storage facility somewhere in Silverthorne, thousands of rubber ducks are reportedly rearing to hit the water this weekend in Breckenridge.

"They definitely are," said Elisabeth Lawrence, director of community relations for The Summit Foundation, two days ahead of the nonprofit's biggest fundraising event of the year. "These ducks are ready to go."

A longstanding Summit County tradition, the Great Rubber Duck Race has supported the community for over three decades now with Saturday marking the 31st running of the rubber ducks in Breckenridge.

It's one of the largest fundraisers, not just for the foundation but across the county. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with free family activities — bounce houses, a community mural and toddler zone — inside the Blue River Plaza downtown. The kids race kicks off at 1 p.m., followed by the business race at 2 p.m. and the main event at 3 p.m.

The ducks are kept in Silverthorne, where organizers like to pretend they spend the year "training" for their big day.

"They like to do their winter training at a slightly lower altitude on the Lower Blue River instead of the Upper Blue River," joked Lawrence of the reason the ducks stay Silverthorne instead of Breckenridge.

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Lawrence allowed the Summit Daily News a sneak peek into the "secret training facility" ahead of Saturday's duck races, but she asked the newspaper not disclose exactly where the racers are kept, perhaps because some big bucks ride on these ducks.

During the three races, more than 12,000 yellow rubber ducks will float their way down the Blue River, from Maggie's Pond at Main Street Station to the Riverwalk Center in the heart of town. Each is numbered and weighted at the bottom so the duck stays mostly upright.

The ducks fastest to the finish will earn their owners — or "duck adopters," as the foundation likes to call them — any one of about 100 unique prizes donated by a wide variety of local businesses.

Because the river is running so low right now, organizers are expecting a comparatively slow race this year. Last year, the main event wrapped up in about 15 minutes, roughly 3 minutes quicker than the 18-minute norm.

"This year will not be a sprint," Lawrence forecasted. "It will be a marathon."

The grand prize for the main race this year is $1,500 cash. Second place will come with a vacation courtesy of the race's title sponsor, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, but the Epic Pass for third place might be one of the most coveted items with the 2018-19 ski season fast-approaching.

Other prizes include season passes at the Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin ski areas, in addition to numerous gift certificates at local businesses for everything from free ski tunes to massages, spas and more.

"Prizes for days," Lawrence said of the pool.

The grand prize for the kids race will be a children's Epic Pass while other top finishers will win one of more than 50 toys donated by Peak-A-Boo Toys or gift certificates to kid-friendly businesses in town. For the business ducks race, the grand prize is a private, catered snowcat tour for up to 12 people, compliments of Vail Resorts.

"Last year the prizes for the main race alone were worth more than $16,000," Lawrence said, adding that total quickly rises to over $25,000 with the business and kids races included.

Adopting ducks for the main race costs $5 per duck, and ducks for the business race are more pricey at $100 each. Each kids duck is $10. Because the kids ducks are poured into the river by personnel from the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District, posted high up a firetruck's ladder, the number of ducks is limited to 850.

The kids race sells out every year, and people are encouraged to either buy their kids ducks online at SummitFoundation.org or arrive early Saturday, when there might still be a few kids ducks available.

The Summit Foundation puts on three large-scale fundraising events every year that net nearly $300,000 together for the nonprofit. The largest of the trio, the Great Rubber Duck Race, typically generates over $150,000 annually for the foundation's many grant and scholarship programs.

"We're always aiming to increase that," Lawrence said, explaining that with growth in the community comes a growing need, and they see it at The Summit Foundation on a daily basis.

On Sunday, volunteers will help the foundation's staff count, sort and return all the ducks to their boxes until next year. It takes about six hours to put them all away, after which the ducks will go back into "training" until next year.