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Rubber Duckie, You’re the One

This story was published July 27, 2005, during an internship at Richmond.com.

For most, a rubber duckie represents little more than childhood memories of bath time. We’re all familiar with the slick-painted orange beak, the grooves cut into the mold as tail feathers and that distinctive plastic smell. For Richmond’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program, these yellow duckies are a lot more than toys – they’re the biggest fundraiser of the year.

This Saturday, for the 16th duck, I mean year, in a row, the Big Brothers and Big Sisters will hold a Duck Race on Brown’s Island. 20,000 ducks will dig, dive and dawdle their way to the finish line as they compete for more than $31,000 in prizes, including the Grand Prize – a 2005 Ford Escape XLT.

The race begins at 3 p.m., but the festivities kick off in the a.m. There will be a variety of free activities for children and adults, such as face painting, arts and crafts and the usual carnival games. Expect the climbing wall and inflatable slides to be crowd favorites, along with the free snow cones designed to keep kids cool. The Duck Race will also feature live musical performances by Radio Disney , Mad Science , Premiere and Shaolin Dragon School of Kung Fu that are sure to keep your toes tapping and your hands quacking. I mean, clapping.

Proceeds from the event go to Big Brothers Big Sisters so they can continue to carry out their mission of providing caring adult role-models and site-based mentoring programs for the children in the greater Richmond and Tri-Cities areas. The attendance last year was over 6,000 and Nancy Nietman , Director of Donor Services for Big Brother Big Sister and Duck Race Coordinator, says “We’re anticipating record crowds if the projected weather [note: highs are expected to be in the low 80s] holds true and it’s a cool day.”

“People of all ages attend the Duck Race, but our largest concentration is families with kids under 12. Then again, last year we had a lot of teenagers and retirees,” says Nietman.

Once the ducks are warmed up, stretched out and ready to rock, they’re loaded into a giant dumpster. “It should sound more glamorous than that,” laughs Nietman. The can is hoisted into the air by a crane and the ducks are dropped into the river below. They travel under the pedestrian bridge, around several turns and then funnel into a V into the finish tube, which is only wide enough for one duck. This narrow tube assures accuracy in determining the top 25 ducks.

The purchase of one duck is $6. Two ducks are $10, five ducks are $25 and the sixth is free. If you buy ten ducks for $50, you get two ducks free and a t-shirt. The elite races can be a silver duck backer or a gold duck backer – silver backers get 25 ducks for $125, a t-shirt and their name listed in the event program while gold backers get 50 ducks for $250, a t-shirt, their name in the program and access to the VIP tent at the event.

Don’t duck out of attending this event, and don’t forget to bring sunscreen, hats and plenty of fluids. Once you’re adequately prepared for the heat, your family will take to the fun like well, a duck to water. 16th Annual Duck Race will be held Saturday, July 30 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Brown’s Island. Actual race begins at 3 p.m. Ducks are still available for purchase. For information, call (804) 261- 4940 or visit www.bigbrobigsis.com.

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