Duck Race

Why a duck?

The 23-foot tall inflatable fowl named Sunny, whom Westporters have come to know these past few weeks, proved to be a pivotal part of the success of the Great Duck Race.

Hundreds of people came down to the river this week to photograph the new mascot of the Sunrise Rotary Club. And as a result, for the first time ever the club sold out all 3,000 rubber ducks for Saturday’s charity fundraiser.

“It’s a great day for duck racing,” said First Selectman Jim Marpe, who is also a member of the club that raised around $70,000 for various charities, including an orphanage it supports in Haiti.

“The Sunrise Rotary Club really has an impact on the community,” said Pat Riemedsma, one of the many volunteers that helped run a variety of events in Parker-Harding Plaza before the ducks hit the water, including face painting and crafts.

“It’s an important part of our club doing an event like this,” she said. “We’re also bringing everyone together and having some fun.”

“It’s great,” said one Westport man. “There’s a bunch of stuff for the kids and it’s a beautiful day. They’ve done a great job.”

Thanks to a pay loader from A.J. Penna & Son Excavating Contractors, the mass of numbered yellow ducks, each of which was purchased for $20, was carted over to the Saugatuck River and dumped in.

On the water volunteers helped corral the aquatic fowl into a circle-shaped buoy, which was then brought to a starting line.

The ducks were slow to get started on their 100 or so foot dash downriver, but eventually the wind helped them get moving. Hundreds of Westporters lined the shore, waiting to see which of the birds would be first to reach the marker.

“It’s a great all-family event,” said Bob Galan, a Rotary Club member. “The best part is that we’re an all-volunteer organization and we don’t have any overhead, so everything goes to charity.”

“Most of it goes to Fairfield County charities,” he said, “but we also do work abroad.”