The highlight of our small town summer is the annual Duck Drop. I call it The Duck Race, but race is probably too grand a word for this event.
We live along the Erie Canal. A waterway that was designed for boats pulled by mules. Speed was the great consideration in 1822 when this canal opened a gateway to the Great Lakes. The steam engine had not been invented yet, so the packet boats relied on mule power to make the trip from Albany to Buffalo and back. Speed in 1822 is not quite the 2008 equivalent.
On any given day, sightseers can enjoy dining along the canal. Or riding bicycles along the mule path, now a paved pathway that runs east and west for miles and miles. If you don't have a bike, you can rent one. Or try your hand on the open water renting a canoe, kayak or paddle boat. Although there is a current deep under the water, the placid surface is perfect for the ducks and geese that gather to entertain pedestrians and paddlers alike.
So peaceful are these waters, you can throw a stick in and an hour later still see it floating just a few yards downstream. Thus the term "race" is perhaps an exaggeration for our little event. The only reason the little rubber duckies move the alloted distance in less than 30 minutes is because the canal lock master upstream faithfully discharges a gush of water; he opens the lock at just the precise moment to give a little umph, a bit of a nudge, to hurry the duckies along.
The evening started out with a concert by a local band. A sea of lawn chairs and blankets. A gathering of young and old along the banks of the canal. Picnic baskets were wide open, wine was uncorked, the cheese perfectly sliced. A table sat off to one side where our local Starbucks provided free iced coffee. Could life be any better?
The crowd lined both shores. The air filled with anticipation. A local celebrity/news anchor was in place at the microphone to provide play-by-play and color commentary.
Close to 1,500 ducks were lined up, ready to launch. Ok. Not really lined up. But they were all boxed up, ready to be thrown off the Main Street bridge.
And off they go!
Regardless of which duck won, the real winners are the children in our community. All proceeds from the great duck race go to our Youth Services organization, providing free and confidential counseling to all children in our community. Children faced with challenging situations - facing difficult family relationships, family illness, substance abuse, divorce or just in need of someone to talk to... those children will have a place to go, or someone to come to them. Thanks to a little rubber duck race.
20 minutes later, the lead duck crossed the finish line. Backwards. Sticking his tongue out at the ducks behind. At least that's what I was told. And that duck's sponsor walked away with a $500 prize (for only a $5 investment).
I'm still waiting for my ducks to check in.