Some 10,000 rubber ducks will take to the Big Wood River one day earlier than usual this year, racing to the finish line at Rotary Park as part of a fundraiser that provides funding to Blaine County Search & Rescue as well as scholarships for local high school students.
For the 16th year in a row, the Great Wagon Days Duck Race will start at the Warm Springs Road bridge and end at Rotary Park on Warm Springs Road in Ketchum, where a crowd of locals and visitors will welcome them and hope the ducks they adopted won a prize.
Hailee Blomquist, Ketchum-Sun Valley Rotary president-elect and organizer of this year’s duck race, said the race was moved to Saturday afternoon from its traditional Sunday start.
Race day was changed because, Blomquist said, the city of Bellevue typically held its Labor Day events on Sunday and Monday. Blomquist also said that moving the race to the day of the Great Wagon Days Parade is likely to boost attendance.
“[Holding the race on Sunday] affected people with kids,” she said. “They chose not to come back up to Ketchum for a second day in a row.”
This year, ducks will be sold before and during the parade, but duck vendors will pack up after the parade.
Rotary members will immediately input all data from sold ducks—inserting the numbers from the “duck adoption papers” held by duck purchasers and matching them with barcodes that are placed on the rubber ducks’ bottoms—and prepare to see the ducks off from the Warm Springs Bridge at about 4 p.m.
Before the ducks take off and during the time when the winners are being figured out, activities for kids and adults alike will take over the park. As usual, Toni Hogue will be serving her Toni’s Ice Cream, and Distilled Resources, a local alcohol distributor, has donated vodka for a vodka mojito booth. There will also be a bouncy house donated by the Wood River Y and live music by local band Cakefacejane.
Blomquist said the winners would be announced after the race is completed and the results are tabulated.
|Thousands of rubber ducks float down the Big Wood River in the annual Great Wagon Days Duck Race. The charitable event is a family favorite during Wagon Days weekend.
Express photo by Willy Cook
“Typically because we have our tech guru on site, we can usually tell right on scene who won,” she said.
Prizes this year include a season ski pass from Sun Valley Co., lunch for two at 10 local restaurants, a wine package, a pet package that includes gift certificates to local veterinarians, a golf package that includes private lessons and four free rounds on local golf courses, and a “date night” package that includes jewelry, dinner for two at the Pioneer Saloon and Perry’s Restaurant in Ketchum, free babysitting, flowers, movie tickets and tickets to the Liberty Theater.
But, as they say, you have to pay to play—ducks cost $5 each, or can be purchased in multiples. A “six quack” is $25, a “flock” is $50 for 13 ducks, the “Very Important Duck” set is 27 ducks for $100, “Big Duck on the Pond” is 140 ducks for $500 and the “Grand Exalted Duck” set is 250 ducks for $1,000.
“As soon as the parade is over,
we’re done selling ducks.”
Duck race organizer
Blomquist said many of the winners each year are locals, and that many past recipients have been relatively low-rollers, only purchasing a six-quack of very lucky ducks. However, she said, it’s best to buy early (and possibly often), as the club has run out of ducks in the past and may sell out again.
Last year, the club made $45,000 from the duck race, part of which went to Blaine County Search & Rescue—which helps with the race operations and sells ducks—and part went to Ketchum-Sun Valley Rotary’s 17 scholarship recipients. Some proceeds also go to the Sun Valley Board of Realtors’ holiday baskets.
For more information, visit www.greatwaondaysduckrace.com.