Off the Hill with Tricia Swenson: Rubber ducks return to race down Gore Creek in Vail during Labor Day weekend
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On Sunday, Sept. 4, Gore Greek will turn into a sea of yellow when over 10,000 ducks make their way downstream. The Vail Rotary Duck Race is a Labor Day tradition that brings more than smiles to the spectators, it brings well-needed programs and assistance to kids locally and globally.
During the summer, members of the Vail Rotary sell ducks all throughout the county. You don’t actually buy a duck, but merely adopt one with hopes of it crossing the finish line first. This year, first place could earn up to $1 million. But even if your duck doesn’t come out on top, there are several great prizes like dinner gift certificates and hotel stays for ducks that come in ahead of the pack.
The annual fundraiser for the Vail Rotary supports many activities such as scholarships, early childhood development and leadership training for youth. Funding also helps provide dictionaries for area third-graders and international projects, including sending local dentists to South America to provide dental services to underprivileged children.
Spectating spots are at a premium. With an estimated 10,000 people in attendance, securing a location along Gore Creek must be done well in advance. The children’s race is at 2 p.m. and the main event kicks off at 3 p.m.
It doesn’t take long for the ducks to travel from the Covered Bridge to the International Bridge, but anything can happen along the way. A promising duck may get caught up in an eddy or get stuck between rocks. Sometimes overzealous dogs may think of these athletes as toys and go fetch one right from the creek, which draws a slew of cheers and jeers from the crowd.
A single duck sells for $10, or you can buy a Platinum Fleet, which is 20 ducks for $100. The Vail Rotary Club has been supporting community service projects in the Vail Valley for 46 years.