Duck race raises thousands
BRECKENRIDGE – Thousands of people lined the banks of the Blue River Saturday afternoon to cheer on 10,250 rubber ducks as they slowly, leisurely – yawn – and nonchalantly drifted from the Maggie Pond to the Riverwalk Center.
The race was part of the 15th annual Rubber Duck Race, a fund raiser for the Summit Foundation. And it was the slowest race on record.
First place went to Myriam Enterprises, whose duck crossed the finish line in 37:48. Last year’s top duck finished in about 14 minutes, said Deb Edwards, the foundation’s executive director. The last duck, prodded along by a dozen or so race crew volunteers, crossed the line in 59:17.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. The American Racing Ducks have been training in high altitude and cold water for the past year, and dining on little more than high-protein seaweed malts. But the Blue River is running at a fraction of its usual pace, and its slow waters pinned ducks against rocks or left them swirling aimlessly in eddies along the banks.
The ducks were challenged from the beginning. Boxes of rubber waterfowl were unloaded from an unmarked van and dumped into a waiting pond. In past years, with swells of water behind them, they could pour off the edge of the Maggie Falls; this year, they almost appeared timid. One by one, they fell to the river below, then quickly regained their competitive prowess.
Volunteers armed with rakes frantically swept the ducks from behind boulders and flung them back into the competition. The ducks then funnelled into a foot-wide stream in a culvert under South Park Avenue, fell into a narrow stretch of shallow water lined by boulders and into the Scully Pond, where many lost whatever footing – er, webbing – they had in the competition.
The Scully Pond is infamous for its calm waters, made even more still by this year’s drought. Ducks gathered in flocks around the edges of the pond; when an errant breeze blew down the valley, the birds even began to float back upstream.
That’s where the kayakers and belly-boaters came into play. The water in the Scully Pond is too deep for race sweepers, marshals and rakers, so volunteer kayakers floated in the negligible current and prodded the ducks north.
More than a few people on the banks of the river said they were suspicious that the ducks might be trying to throw the race.
The winning duck, looking bedraggled and stunned, its feathers ruffled and muddy, entered the funnel to win the race with others in hot pursuit – sort of.
That duck won its adopter – Myriam Enterprises – a Caldera Spa from Accent Spas Backyard Expo in Frisco; company representatives then donated the spa back to the Summit Foundation for its Philanthropy Day raffle.
“It was a tough race,” said the winning duck, No. 4927, while soaking in a hot tub after the competition. “The boulders were far more numerous than any of anticipated, and the volunteers were out in force, trying to get us all unstuck. I’m quacked out.”
“After I saw how low the water was, I thought, man, there is no way,” said Duck No. 52, who drifted across the finish line in 10,006th place. “I wasn’t about to blow out a wing before ski season.”
Second place, five nights in Blackcomb, British Columbia, was awarded to Chris Barton. Third place, a Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek season pass, went to Trent Powell. The last-place duck, which puttered across the finish line in just under an hour, won for its adopter Kathy Robinson two pitchers of beer and two pizzas at Downstairs at Erics.
East West Hyatt representatives, rumored to have been hustling along Main Street in an attempt to sell the most ducks, brought in $4,600 for the Summit Foundation, beating out Valdoro Lodge/FirstBank with $3,385 and Grand Timber Lodge with $2,108.
“Once again, this community has rallied around what’s important,” Edwards said after the announcements. “And this community is better for it.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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