Monday, June 27, 2022

What’s yellow, weighs 3,000 pounds, floats and is worth up to $100,000? A ‘Duck Derby’

15,000 rubber duckies are coming to Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY DUCK RACE)
15,000 rubber duckies are coming to Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY DUCK RACE)

WILMINGTON — Here’s something you don’t see every day: a tidal wave of 15,000 rubber ducks coming down a water-slide.

This Saturday, that’s exactly what you will see at Jungle Rapids at the Coastal Duck Derby. The 2nd annual event raises money for the Open House Youth Shelter of Coastal Horizons Center. Participants “adopt” a rubber duck – or five, or 100 – and the “adoption fee” goes to the shelter (there are discounts for adopting larger groups of ducks – a single “lonely duck” is $5, a “quacker’s dozen” is $50 and so on).

Each duck has a random number assigned to it – that will be important later. The Derby’s goal is to see all 15,000 ducks get adopted. Jamie Thompson, development director for Coastal Duck Derby, said about half of the ducks have been adopted so far.

“Everyone always adopts their ducks at the last minute, which is good, because there’s still plenty of ducks to go around, but bad for me, because I’m a nervous wreck until the last minute hoping they’ll all get adopted,” Thompson said.

15,000 rubber duckies, one of which could be worth $100,000. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY DUCK RACE)

After all the ducks are adopted and numbered, then comes the fun part.

The Derby’s team of “duck deployment volunteers” will head out to the Jungle Rapids amusement park and ascend the park’s Blue Water slide. The ducks then make their way down the slide, competing for first place.

Thompson said this part of the derby still makes her nervous.

“You just have to see it, it’s great,” Thompson said. “But I was a little nervous the first time we did it. You don’t think about it, but that many rubber ducks, together they weigh a ton and a half. I thought, is it going to hold? Am I going to be the person who broke the slide?”

According to Thompson, an engineer at Corning – which is a sponsor of the event – reassured her.

“He told me, ‘these things are built to withstand hurricanes, they’ll be okay,’ so then I felt better,” Thompson said.

After Wilmington, the ducks head to their next town. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY DUCK RACE)

At the bottom of the slide, things get exciting. Winning ducks can score their owners cash prizes – up to $1,000 for first place – as well as gift cards and memberships from local business for the ducks placing second through sixth place (check out more info on entry and prizes here).

The grand prize is a little more complicated, but it’s also worth $100,000. Here’s how it works: five of the ducks have “special” numbers, if one of those ducks is the 13th across the finish line, the owner wins $100,000. (You can read the complete rules here).

As an added bonus, the anonymous sponsor who provides the grand prize will donate a matching $100,000 to the Coastal Horizons shelter. Open House Youth Shelter is Wilmington’s only “open shelter,” meaning it takes all children, ages 6 – 18, regardless of what their background is or the why they need sheltering. The shelter provides its services for free.

What happens to the ducks? They pack up and head to the next town as part of Duck Race’s nationwide efforts to raise money for non-profits. The group has raised $280 million so far; you can find a list of their events here.

The Duck Derby kicks off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, at Jungle Rapid parks, spectators are welcome for free. The actual duck derby will splash down at 7 p.m.

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