Rubber ducks make yearly trek down Blue River today in Breckenridge
Summit Daily News
The Summit Foundation board member Kathy Grotemeyer jokes that she doesn’t remember how she got roped into volunteering for the very first duck race 24 years ago, but she “just got hooked quick.” This year’s 24th Annual Great Rubber Duck Race marks Grotemeyer’s 25th straight year of volunteering for the event.
“I’m the in-duck-ter and de-duck-ter,” Grotemeyer said of her main role as a volunteer over the years: putting the ducks in the water and then scooping them out.
The race’s inception was with the Adams Street Cafe; The Summit Foundation, (then called the Breckenridge Foundation), took the event over its second year. The organization started leasing ducks a few years in, storing them in the executive director’s basement (they now live in a storage facility). The ducks are reused every year, and even though some get lost in the mix each race, Grotemeyer said there’s a good chance some of the swimmers are over 20 years old. The foundation owns more than 15,000 rubber ducks.
The little racers have had various start locations over the years, including downstairs at the Maggie building. Floating across Maggie Pond “took forever,” so for the past 10 years or so, they’ve been launched from Main Street Station into the Blue River. They’ve also had various start methods: Grotemeyer recalls dumping ducks one year from a tarp at the top of a Red, White and Blue fire truck ladder, which proved to be a little too heavy. Today, a fire truck is still used, but only for announcements and to launch the business race ducks (there’s only about 140 of them). The rest of the ducks are mixed up by volunteer waders inside foam floats before being dispatched on their yearly journey.
For Town of Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo – who served as development director for the Summit Foundation from 1995-2003 – her favorite part of the race has always been watching the ducks released before they drift over the dam. And, the people on the sidelines screaming at the ducks as they float past, even though they don’t know which duck is theirs.
“It’s such a positive, fun event,” Dykstra-DiLallo said. “What a fun way to raise money for the community.”
Grotemeyer remembers a big lightning storm erupting during the race about 15 years ago. Volunteers worked to get the ducks in and out of the water fast.
“It was a scramble,” she said. Another memory: trying to chase ducks from paddle boats in Maggie Pond.
Crowd numbers have always been substantial over the years, especially if it’s a beautiful day, but the “carnival aspect” at the Riverwalk Center has grown, Grotemeyer said. The food has improved as well.
“It’s a fun event for the Labor Day Weekend that people look forward too,” Summit Foundation executive director Lee Zimmerman said.
> The event consists of three different races: the Kids Duck Dash, the Business Battle Duck Race and the Great Rubber Duck Race. All take place at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave.
> Kids Duck Dash starts at 1 p.m. at the Adams Street bridge, Business Battle Duck Race starts at 2 and the Great Rubber Duck Race starts at 3; both at Maggie Pond. All ducks finish at the Riverwalk Center.
> The day usually brings in around $50,000-$60,000 to support the foundation’s community giving efforts through grant and scholarship programs.
> Regular yellow ducks are $5 and can be adopted until 2:45 p.m. today.
> For more information, go to http://www.summitfoundation.org
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