Ducks turned loose to educate kids; everybody wins
Little ducks of many colors fanned out on the Snake River behind a boat that launched the annual Nome Rotary Labor Day Snake River Duck Race on Sept. 4. The duck race followed the Great Labor Day Bath Tub Race. Why not?
The duck race is one of Nome’s annual fundraisers put on by service organizations like the Bering Sea Lions Club chicken barbecue and the Nome Preschool Association Auction. This duck race scholarship fund benefits graduates of Nome-Beltz High School.
Spectators who had purchased tickets with numbers corresponding to the ducks bobbing along the swells and eddies walked the banks under glorious skies as the flotilla of 3,000 potential winners floated downstream gently encouraged by a favorable west breeze.
Rotarians staging the college scholarship fundraiser expressed relief. Last year, a cruel east wind blew the ducks upstream with duck herders stuck in the boat for three hours waiting for the flock to break up and head for the bridge across the Snake.
The ducks moved along with distance growing between them allowing annual boat pilot Charlie Lean and assistants Margaret Demaioribus and Andrew McCann to easily net them in order as they passed under a line of streamers flapping in the breeze across the river.
Demaioribus called off the numbers from the boat while the shore crew checked the tickets. The fastest duck, sponsored by Jodi Arnold won her a check for $1,500. The second duckie under the tape gave Anna Whalin $750. She will donate part of the money to relatives undergoing a family emergency, she said. Third place winner Matthew Mitchell had to lay down his knife from butchering a moose to accept a check for $500. Joel Miller, sponsor of the Wild Duck, plucked from the current at random, was to receive $250 when he returned a call left on his phone.
The Rotary Club of Nome for the first time in the long history of the Labor Day Duck Race sold out all 3,000 tickets. Folks who contributed to the scholarship fund paid $5 for one duck and $20 for five ducks. A number of generous high rollers bought books of tickets for $80, giving them 20 ducks in the race.
A few plucky duck sponsors respectfully asked if they might install high powered batteries and props on their ducks. Race Marshal Adam Lust respectfully threw a wet blanket on that idea.