Landlocked ducks don’t sink derby | AspenTimes.com

Landlocked ducks don’t sink derby

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A quintet of rubber ducks escape the Ducky Derby registration tent to sing the blues on the not so Roaring Fork River for some higher water. The ducks may have to race in the hands of able and willing children on saturday if the waterway is deemed too low to support the masses of yellow competitors.Daniel Bayer photo.

Ducks are set to waddle this year rather than swim in the 11th annual Ducky Derby Festival.

Blame it on Mother Nature. This year’s drought has left the Roaring Fork River a little too parched for the thousands of little yellow rubber ducks that compete for prizes each year in one of the valley’s most popular charity fund-raisers.

The Rotary Club of Aspen has decided to ground the ducks since the race would be impossible with the low water level, said this year’s “head duck,” Chuck Guinn.

The contingency plan for the event is a sort of ducky obstacle course, set up by Rotary Club members to ensure winners are chosen at random. Kids arriving at the Ducky Derby Festival on Saturday at Rio Grande Park may want to sign up to help out: Guinn said as many as 25 kids may be needed.

The rubber duckies will be dumped in a fenced-in pile in the park, and kids will pick the toys at random to be tossed into the air and continue with the course. From there, kids will toss the ducks through several targets.

The first ducks that complete the course will win prizes for their adoptive parents. Guinn notes that there are 63 possible prizes, the top one being a 2002 Jeep Wrangler, so the contest could still be a little lengthy.

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Although the Salvation Ditch Co. offered to release water in the river for the race, Guinn said the level still wouldn’t have been enough to make for a timely event.

“It would have taken forever. Plus we’d have half the Rotary Club in the river retrieving ducks that usually come down the river on their own,” he said.

This year’s race will include anywhere between 25,000 and 30,000 ducks, which can be purchased up until noon on Saturday. At $5 each, the duck adoptions raise money for over 25 nonprofits in the valley.

Guinn said the entire Ducky Derby Festival has become a popular summer event for families.

“The festival has become a popular kids’ event in Aspen. We’ve had several families and concierges calling us, because they want to know when it was,” Guinn said. “People are planning their vacations here around it.”

He said this year’s festival will be packed with activities, starting with a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Basalt Lion’s Club at 7:37 a.m. and continuing with live music and a barbecue lunch. Guinn said he’s hopeful that participants will be understanding about why the duck race will be run on land this year.

“If you go to the river and look, there’s hardly any water in there even with the storms we’ve been having,” he said. “It’s so dry, all the rain is absorbed right into the ground.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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