Westport Sunrise Rotary ran its 5th Annual Great Duck Race in Parker Harding Plaza on Saturday. It offered a day of family fun in downtown Westport along with the opportunity to support local, area and international charities. New this year was a dunking stool that offered the chance to dunk a local notable into a pool of water.
The club sold about 2,300 tickets for the main event, each matching a numbered duck.
The race went off at 3:00. A front end loader once again volunteered a sponsor, A.J Penna & Son, dumped all the ducks into a floating boom in the Saugatuck River. Club members in kayaks and canoes herded them to the start line. And off they went – bobbing with the outflowing tide toward the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge at the Post Road.
Westporter John Cooper owned the winning ticket. His “fastest” duck won him a $5,000 debit card. The second place finisher won another Westporter, Tom Feely, $1,000. The next eight finishers won $500 each for their ticket owners.
In an interview afterward it was learned that Cooper’s duck will be retired to stud.
The dunking stool was a great success. Five great sports volunteered to get dunked for charity by anyone buying three softball tosses for five dollars – RTM Moderator Eileen Flug; former Board of Education member, and now First Selectman candidate Jim Marpe; Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon; Third Selectman Charlie Haberstroh; and last minute volunteer Reverend Ed Horne, Senior Pastor of the United Methodist Church Westport. State Representative and Sunrise Rotarian Gail Lavielle oversaw the event.
Almost 100 people bought in. Each threw balls at a small circular plate about ten feet away. Hitting the plate pushed a lever that dumped the dunkee into a four foot deep pool of water.
Flug got dunked 11 times, all the others close to that number. Haberstroh’s daughter Kim offered the ultimate what for – having lost her softball skills, she missed all three tosses, then slid up to the plate, banged it with her elbow and watched her unsuspecting father take another drop.
The club again sponsored a Duck Decorating competition. More than a dozen businesses and organizations bought yellow plastic ducks – big brothers and sisters of the racers – and transformed them into art objects. Celebrity judges Miggs Burroughs, Nina Bentley and Cathy Colgan selected three winners, a food themed quacker created by Lavinia Hurd of Whole Foods in Westport took First Prize, Indulge by Mersene won second, and Gault Rocks took third place.
Westport Library, which entered a duck of their own, will display seven of the best non-prize winners.
Another race day activity was a tent with children’s activities – markers, paper, pipe cleaners. Nothing electronic. Imagine.
The weather co-operated, the event yielded funds that will provide much needed support for the club’s charities.
Westport Sunrise Rotary now asks everyone to save the date – Friday evening, October 25 – for the club’s Wine Tasting. The event will be held at Christ & Holy Trinity Church and will kick off the Downtown Merchants Association’s Downtown Weekend celebration.