Get your duck in the Vail Rotary Duck Race |

Get your duck in the Vail Rotary Duck Race

Graham Danzoll
Vail Rotary

Leah Obrien is getting her ducks in a row. They’re not all in a nice, neat row, but it’s a little difficult when you’re dealing with about 13,000 of them — little yellow rubber duckies that is.

Obrien is the new “Head Duck” for Colorado’s Duck Race, the Vail Rotary Club’s largest fundraiser happening each Labor Day weekend. This year is the 20th anniversary of the duck race, wherein anywhere from 13,000 to 15,000 numbered yellow rubber duckies float down Gore Creek in Vail Village with prizes and cash giveaways going to the “adopters” — people like you and me who buy a chance to have a duck cross the finish line first.

There are even several “Million Dollar Ducks” out there, too — one mixed in with every 3,000 ducks in the race. It costs $10 to adopt a duck, or five ducks for $40. Eighty percent of funds raised go to local scholarships and programs in the community and the remaining 20 percent goes to help Rotary Club International initiatives such as clean water systems and polio eradication projects worldwide.


Obrien has seen quite a few races herself in that 20-year span.

“I grew up here in Edwards in Singletree. My mom, Reggie Obrien, was the president in 2015 and I’ve been involved as a Rotarian since then,” she said.

Colorado’s Duck Race requires more than a babbling brook to make it float. Obrien has Team Duck to help her (a duck committee of sorts consisting of former Head Ducks such as Larry Agneberg and helpers including Chuck Smallwood and Emy Halpert) along with Rotarians and other nonprofit partners who share the selling of the adoptions, usually out at local grocery stores and farmers markets throughout the summer.

There will also be a Kids Duck Race happening at 2 p.m. prior to the main race, which starts at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3. Specialty “character” ducks are for sale for kids to keep and race in the Kids Race.

For business interested in sponsorships, Obrien and her team have created the Decorate a Duck Contest, where business can pay $100 to decorate their oversized duck with a $200 gift certificate up for grabs.

This year, there are a limited number of 100, but Vail Rotary is hoping to double and even triple that for next year. Vail Rotary is currently looking for participants and also for a contest sponsor so that 100 percent of the proceeds from each duck goes toward scholarships for students in our community.

It’s near the end of our time together, and Leah Obrien lightly quips, “There are still ways to help! Sponsorships are available, there are ducks to decorate and ducks to adopt. Volunteers are always welcome, too!”

Sounds like someone’s getting their ducks in row for Sunday, Sept. 3.

For more information on Colorado’s Duck Race, visit

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