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Duck Derby - Arlington Sunshine Rotary Club
Posted in on May 3, 2024

7,000 rubber ducks race at Duck Derby

Two-year-old Bryce Dillon could hardly contain his excitement recently while at Randol Mill Family Aquatic Center in Arlington.

“They’re coming! They’re coming!” he said, bouncing up and down as he squatted at the edge of the lazy river.

“I know!” his mom Ashley joyfully replied as she, Bryce and her husband Gary watched nearly 7,000 ducks wade in the water.

Well, rubber ducks, that is.

The Dillons were among dozens of people who flocked to Arlington Sunrise Rotary Club’s inaugural Dream City Duck Derby last weekend. The event invited local community members to “sponsor” a duck with hopes that it would float along the path of the lazy river, reaching a finish line quicker than others.

Duck Derby at Randol MillBased on the “efforts” made by their ducks, sponsors had a chance of winning prizes by participating in the fundraiser. Founded in 1987, the club organized the new event to raise about $30,000 to support its numerous causes. In 2023, it boosted attendance at Arlington ISD’s Thornton and Anderson elementary schools by providing perfect attendance awards, pizza parties and more.

Ashley, who regularly takes Bryce to Arlington ISD’s Toddler Time P.L.A.Y., a program designed to prepare toddlers for school, learned about the derby via Facebook.

“I just wanted a fun day with the kids and my husband,” she said.

The event ended up fitting the “bill.” The event included food trucks, live music and booths from vendors, including the North and Central YMCAs, HDNP International, Dental Health Arlington, Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop and Mary Kay. Some of them featured duck-themed merchandise atop their tables for those who came out for the affair.

Giving back

Arlington Sunrise Rotary’s website says its mission is to “provide services to others, promote integrity and advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through a fellowship of business professionals and community leaders.”

Throughout the year, the members maintain and upgrade the Dunlop Park Creative Playground, which the club built in the late 1980s. They also place flags at designated homes on several flag routes during six patriotic holidays, and they work tirelessly to raise funds to provide scholarships for local high school seniors entering college.

Supporting families in need during the holidays is also dear to their hearts. The Rotary’s signature international project involves efforts to eradicate polio. But this was the club’s first attempt at hosting a duck derby.

Legend has it that the first rubber duck race took place in Wales in 1980, but others claim it originated in Ottawa, Canada in 1987. Regardless, rubber duck races began to spread across the world during the 1990s. The events take a considerable amount of preparation and follow a concrete set of rules.

Anyone could adopt a duck for a minimum donation of $5. Participants can increase their chances of winning by adopting more ducks. For last Saturday’s event, locals could purchase a “Quack Pack,” four ducks for $20 or the Quack Crew (10 for $50). By spending $100, a participant could enter 20 ducks in a package called “The Flyer Over.” Or spend $500 for the “Whole Quack,” meaning 100 ducks.

One might wonder how a winner could possibly be determined if all the swarming ducks looked alike.

Well, a tag number was attached on the bottom of each duck, so the Rotarian who plucked the winners out of the water could see who each one belonged to and award prizes. Chairperson Tracy Winkles served as a lively emcee, even asking the attendees to quack like the “contestants.”

The Arlington High School graduate thoroughly explained all the derby’s expectations, including how the 7,000 ducks would take their starting places before the race began. This included first having a “duck mixer,” Winkles jokingly said, meaning the ducks would become more scrambled after going through a “practice round.”

This allowed sponsors to have a fairer chance at winning the race, Winkles explained. “And that way they can make friends … or maybe, make enemies,” Winkles said, as student life guards from Lamar High School kept ducks from going rogue – or floating away – before the race kicked off on the windy afternoon.

DJ Shawn Waldrop, better known as “DJ Boogieman,” added even more humor.

“Go motivate your duck, give encouraging words, say a prayer,” he encouraged the sponsors.

“Give them something to get these ducks moving because the ones in the back are going to have a harder time than the ones in the front. Hopefully, it will be an equal race,” Waldrop said.

Standing out from the flock

Throughout the event, one could see a sea of yellow shirts as nearly 70 volunteers donned the color in an act of solidarity with the rubber toys. However, no one was more decorated than longtime Rotary member Chuck Chambers. The president of Image 360 – an Arlington-based signage and graphics provider – was decked out in duck gear, including a snazzy bucket hat.

Duck Derby“I do everything big. Go big or go home. It’s fun to do this stuff,” Chambers said.

Attendee Tim Lopez also had a ball at the derby. He won a towel and a duck caller by tossing a rubber duck into a bucket and water-filled floatie from nine feet away. The popular station was manned by Your Tees, a T-shirt company owned by Jared Kriewall that has customers across the city.

“We’ve been in business eight years here in Arlington, so we thought we had to jump in,” said Kriewall, a Martin High School graduate and Rotary member.

Jimmy Harris, the fourth-generation owner of the 114-year-old restaurant David’s Barbecue in Pantego, obliged to his friend’s request for him to donate to the cause. Harris sponsored about 80 ducks to “compete” and was a “ducky” – ahem, lucky – winner. He took home the top prize, a $2,500 Visa gift card and “quacked” up just thinking about it.

“Who would ever think they are gonna win a duck race?” Harris said.

The second and third place winners – Rishi Mehra and James Moody Alexander – received $1,000 and $500 gift cards, respectively. There were additional prizes for the 4th through 10th place winners.

Courtni Anderson, aquatics manager, was thrilled about how the event turned out.

“It’s important for our department and the City of Arlington to help support the Rotary because they do so much for the community,” she said. “And it’s another opportunity for (people) to come out to see our amazing facility and see what we have to offer.”