Editor's note: we asked dedicated Rotarian JoAnne Murray and duck derby expert what it takes to put on this amazing, and unique, annual event. We liked what she wrote so much, we're posting it here in full:
The Rotary Club’s first rubber duck derby was in 2008. In 2005, Mimi Godwin came to the club with the idea of doing a Rubber Duck Derby. She was driving through a Massachusetts town on the day that the local Rotary Club was holding its annual Duck Race and thought that this could be a great community event for our Club.
It took three years for her to convince the Club that we should try it.
The first year we expected would be a learning curve, and it was. The start up expenses were exactly as expected. We decided if we were going to do it, we would make the initial investment to do it as professionally as possible. So we obtained sponsors to help with the start up. , , , and have been loyal sponsors since the start. came on later and this year Sam’s Club, and INC Printing and Graphics joined us.
We decided we needed to promote the Rubber Duck Derby and Costumed Ducks would help us do that. We purchased costumes but who would want to get into these Costumes? Hmmmm. There weren’t a lot of Rotarians willing to do this and we decided the costumes were too expensive to let random people use them. So Mimi Godwin and myself decided, why not, we would be the costumed ducks. We made this decision with the agreement that we would be the only ones to use the costumes. No sharing sweat.
Next issue was the ducks. We could purchase the inexpensive ducks from a well known on line supplier but decided against that. We spoke with some of the Rotary Clubs that had successful Duck Derbies and found that the weighted ducks made for a better look as they raced (no upside down ducks in the water). So weighted ducks it was.
Now we couldn’t let people adopt the ducks as they might not show up at the race and it would be hard to keep track of numbers and winners. So Adoption Papers were designed and the numbered ducks remain with the club.
After the race is over, we have 1,700 (this year we hope for 2,000), wet ducks that have been scooped up from the stream. These are taken to Mimi’s house, laid out in her driveway and given a soapy bath and rinse. Once they dry in the sun, we have our “duck sorting party” where a few of us gather at Mimi’s home to sort the 1,700 ducks into numerical order to make sure they are all there (some escape during the race). Unnumbered ducks are kept on hand to fill in the missing numbers. As the ducks are put into bins, two people have numbered lists and check off each number to make sure they are all accounted for. Then they are stored for the winter.
The day before the race, the ducks again are laid out in the parking lot of Allan Block Insurance and we double check to make sure all the numbers ducks adopted are there ready to race.
On race day, as ducks are adopted, the numbers are recorded and these ducks are distributed into one of the five bins to be raced in one of the five heats.
On the day of the race, the Costumed Ducks greet children, adults and pets in the park for photos and dump the bins of ducks into the stream for each heat. Even a cool spring jacket day, will be a hot day in the costume for the costumed ducks. The is on hand making sure that we take breaks in the truck every 20 minutes. They provide water and ice packs when necessary. One April event was so warm that there were two dehydrated, deflated, hurting ducks the next day.
Leading up to the day of the event, the (Hope Hose and Conquerer) together with the and , clean out the stream in and prepare it for the Big Race. Were it not for the Fire Dept, and Fire Chief Joey McCarthy in particular (Joey passed away last year at a young age of 50), there would be no Rubber Ducky Derby. Joey McCarthy designed a way to hold back water at the top of the stream. The Fire Dept pumps water into the stream, the guillotine holds back the water and then the water is released to make the ducks swiftly race down to the Finish Line.
It takes many volunteers the day of the event to make this a success. The turn out to sell ducks, sort ducks, record ducks, and with waders on, stand in the stream to scoop up the winning ducks. Girls Scouts, Interact Club students and Sleepy Hollow High School students help scoop ducks from the stream after each race, set up before the event and clean up after the event.
The brings together Rotarians, families, individuals, for a good old-fashioned fun day at the park. All the funds raised are returned to the communities of Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Irvington in the form of grants. The Rotary Club of the Tarrytowns represents all three villages.
The collaborates with the Rotary Club by running their Healthy Kids Day in the park at the same time the Duck Derby is going on. This allows families to spend the day at the park enjoying food, entertainment, amusements and arts and crafts along with the Rubber Duck races.
It’s an event that has been embraced by the communities and The Rotary Club appreciates everyone’s support.
Ducks can be adopted on line up until April 25 at www.tarrytownrotary.org or by calling Mimi Godwin at 631-0675 for an Adoption application. You can also adopt ducks the day of the event at the park. The big event is Saturday, April 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Patriot's Park, races at noon.
See you there!