The second annual Great Rubber Ducky Race to benefit the Aquatics Foundation of Southern Oregon was held in Lithia Park on Saturday. Crowds of eager spectators lined up along Ashland Creek, the wading pool and bridges, each wondering which of the quackers would bring in the smackers.
The first-place ducky was worth $1,200 in cash, courtesy of American Leak Detection in Talent. The start was briefly delayed as volunteers sold last-minute adoption tickets to those who wanted to get in on the action. The money paid to adopt each duck went toward the Aquatics Foundation.
After a slight air horn malfunction, the ducks were released from two large barrels to the roaring crowd: The race was on, albeit a little more slowly than last year.
"Due to the water level, the race was definitely slower this year," said Event Coordinator Jana Carole. "Last year's race lasted between 10 to 12 minutes, while this year's was considerably longer."
Saturday's race netted the AFSO approximately $17,600 dollars for the maintenance of the SOU pool, $2,600 more than last year. Despite the current economic situation, 1,750 out of a possible 3,000 ducks were adopted.
"I think things went very well, considering the times," Carole said. "But we're always hoping for more. Through thick and thin, the community always supports us, so I consider us lucky.
Race goers were varied in their reactions, a first time for some and a family affair for others.
Ashland resident Rebecca Warren was a little overwhelmed by the spectacle, which produced shouts from the crowd each time a duck surmounted an obstacle.
"There's so much excitement in the air," Warren said. "I really got caught up in it."
For many, like Ashland resident Maryanne Breswick, it was all about the children.
"My grandkids have ducks in the race," she said. "They're following the race along the creek, and they are pretty excited."
The winner was No. 2895, which dodged rocks and rapids upside down before it stopping at the finish line. Much to the consternation of the spectators, the would-be champion lingered without crossing.
"Is that the end-zone dance he's doing?" said Ashland resident Stacy Waymire while rooting for duck #301. "I think he's taunting us."
There was considerable separation between the thoroughbreds and the slackers. Right at the start, many ducks clustered around the rocks. Most were upside-down for the whole race, causing an onlooker to remark, "The leaders are upside-down, just like in real life."
Public Affairs Coordinator Carol Davis believes the event would not have been possible without the volunteers.
"It took a lot of work to put this all together," Davis said. "We had a lot of dedicated volunteers, including high school swimmers and polo players from throughout the valley."
The race benefited the Aquatics Foundation of Southern Oregon, an organization that promotes aquatic events, training and a place for community pool users throughout the Rogue Valley to compete. Many high school and local teams rely on the AFSO to maintain the SOU pool, without which there would be no place to swim. Annual pool maintenance costs an estimated $100,000 dollars.
Those who missed out on Saturday's action can still help the cause by getting a car wash on Saturday, Aug. 1, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Ashland Physical Therapy on the corner of Lithia Way and Second Street. Donations to the AFSO are always accepted. For more information, go to www.oregonswims.org.