Rubber ducks take over Vail |

Rubber ducks take over Vail

Veronica Whitney

“Here they come! And there are so many …,” said 12-year-old Kenzie Grant, as thousands of ducks got their 10 minutes of fame.

Grant was among the volunteers who helped the stray ducks stay on course as hundreds of children and their parents stood on the banks of the creek rooting for the ducks.

“The ducks look like a bunch of tourists in a roundabout,” joked the event announcer as the ducks approached the finish line.

This year, about 10,000 ducks were adopted for $5, said Cindy Callicrate, one of the organizers of the event.

“Last year, we sold 8,000 rubber ducks,” said Callicrate, who’s worked in the event the last four summers. “This year’s race is bigger and it’s probably the most well organized. We have 100 volunteers.”

The rubber ducks, turned one-afternoon heroes, plunged down Vail’s Gore Creek for more than 100 yards from the Covered Bridge to the International Bridge in the heart of Vail. It took the winners just more than 10 minutes to cross the finish line. Some ducks went airborne before volunteers freed them from the rocks and threw them back into the race.

“We have a finish line designed so there’s one duck coming in at a time,” Callicrate said.

The race, a Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary Club’s annual fund raising event, supports the club’s scholarship fund, the Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary I-70 clean-up, health programs for children, the eradication of world polio, youth sports and local non-profit organizations.

The rubber duck race attracted hundreds of people, locals and tourists. As on a busy winter day, the Vail Village parking lot was full and cars were parked on both sides of the Frontage Road. Visitors browsed the Vail Market along Meadow Drive before the race started. There was a food court, face painting, children’s games and live music with “Thelma and Louise and the Hitchhikers” band.

Earlier, the rubber ducks waited for the start like runners in the New York Marathon.

“It looks like a flower bed,” said Paul Milton of Naples, Fla.

“Last chance! We have extra ducks,” called Dan Wolf, minutes before the race started.

“How do I know which is mine?” asked Rose Lew, a visitor from New Mexico who had just adopted a duck.

“The ducks have numbers and at the end of the race we go to registration and match the winning duck number with the person who adopted it,” Callicrate said.

As in a car race, people waited for the start impatiently.

“They will need wheels this year, the creek is real shallow,” said Sam Reed of Red Cliff.

Last year’s champ belonged to Eileen Duke of Gypsum, who won a $10,000 savings bond.

This year, there were 39 prizes. The top five prizes were a trip to Lake Tahoe and Jackson Hole, an adult ski pass for Vail and Beaver Creek, a two- night stay with spa treatments at Vail Cascade and a Cordillera lodge and Spa weekend. Other prizes included rounds of golf, hair cuts, gourmet meals and jewelry.

Vail Resorts and Vail Resorts Development Company were the title sponsors of this year’s event, which raised about $60,000, said Bob Brown of the Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary Club and one of the event organizers.

“That’s more than double what we made last year,” Brown said.

The oblivious ducks, however, had to deal with less water in the creek.

“This year they had to train much longer to manage the narrower course,” Brown joked. “There wasn’t a lot of opportunity out there.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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