Upper Rainy River was awash in yellow last Thursday evening as hundreds of “ducks” raced towards the finish line during Crime Stopper’s 13th-annual Great Rubber Duckie Race.
“We got around 700 ducks sold,” said Murray Alexander, director of Northwestern Ontario Crime Stoppers.
He was elated with the turnout despite a change in scheduling. The race usually is held in conjunction with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship but not this year.
“We thought that there needed to be more events for Fun in the Sun,” Alexander explained.
For a $5 per duck fee, contestants had a shot at winning the $1,000 prize for the fastest duck, or one of 10 prizes of $50 for a variety of different finishers, including “upside down duck,” “back of the pack duck,” “docked duck,” and “defector duck” (awarded each year to the bird that high-tails it to the U.S. side of the river).
The money raised helps to pay the rewards for successful tips to the Crime Stoppers program.
The rubber duckie race always serves up fun, but sometimes controversy also is on the menu.
“One year, a seagull swooped down and picked up a [rubber] duck and dropped it just beyond the finish line,” said Bruce Martin, chair of the Northwest Ontario Crime Stoppers.
“Now we have marksman out there to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he laughed.
The considerable crowd lined the riverfront to cheer as the ducks were dropped into the water. Among them stood some of Fort Frances’ most prudent youngsters who already knew what they would do with their projected winnings.
“I’d save it for the future,” said George Halverson, 12.
“I’d just put it in the bank,” echoed Brittany Martin, 11.
The race was finished in just four minutes thanks to the quick current on the river these days due to all the floodgates on the dam being open.
“That’s the fastest I’ve seen them move,” observed Doug Cuthbertson, a Canada Customs officer and volunteer organizer, as the winning duck was scooped up.
It was soon announced that Mike Belluz had won the grand prize but, of course, the real winner was Crime Stoppers. According to treasurer Peter West, the event raised more than $1,000 from the group.
Their hard work paid off even if their own ducks did not.