Westport's annual Duck Race goes virtual this year

Westport Sunrise Rotary volunteers get the thousands of rubber ducks into place on the Saugatuck River for the Great Duck Race Saturday, June 9, 2018, at Parker Harding Plaza in Westport, Conn.

Westport Sunrise Rotary volunteers get the thousands of rubber ducks into place on the Saugatuck River for the Great Duck Race Saturday, June 9, 2018, at Parker Harding Plaza in Westport, Conn.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — The town’s annual Great Duck Race typically draws hundreds of people — many of them young children — to watch a slew of rubber ducks float down the Saugatuck River.

It’s a local tradition, run by the Westport Sunrise Rotary, that raises thousands of dollars for charity. Last year, the Duck Race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And though many people are now vaccinated against the virus, organizers decided to hold off on the in-person race for at least one more year.

“To be cautious, we decided wasn’t a good idea (to host the race) this year,” said Sunrise Rotary president elect Bruce Paul. “It’s great Westport tradition to have the ducks in the water, but we don’t want to put anybody’s health in jeopardy.”

However, some aspects of the race will still be around. The race was also a raffle, in which the sponsor of the winning duck won a prize. This year, there will be a virtual raffle and a drawing will take place online on Aug. 6. Tickets are $25 and available at the rotary website, westportsunriserotary.org. Those who buy a ticket will get instructions on viewing the drawing.

First prize is a $5,000 Visa gift card; second prize is a $2,000 Visa gift card and six $500 Visa gift cards also will be given out at the drawing.

All the proceeds go to the many charities the rotary supports, and Paul said the need of the charities are a major reason the rotary decide to host the raffle, even if they couldn’t do the in-person race and the fair that typically accompanies it.

The raffle isn’t the only aspect of the race to survive this year. The two giant inflatable ducks used to promote the race can still be glimpsed around town. Sunny — who stands more than 20 feet tall — is on Jesup Green near the library. Sunny’s smaller sibling, the 10-foot-tall Little Ralphie, is being moved to various locations around town to help promote the event, Paul said.

Sunny is also adorned with a QR code that can be scanned and used to get raffle tickets.

So far, Paul said, people in town have been understanding about the cancellation of the duck race event, and still supportive of the fundraiser.

“We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of people still buying tickets,” he said. “People realize the point of this is to support the charities.”