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Invasion of the ducks: Derby makes its 10th splash

POSTED: May 29, 2008 5:01 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Matt Wiley tosses stray ducks back into the racing lane Saturday during the Rubber Duck Derby at Clarks Bridge Park.

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If you drove by Clarks Bridge Park on Saturday afternoon and wondered about the mass of rubber ducks floating down the lake, then you missed out on the 10th annual Rubber Duck Derby.

The event, a fundraiser for Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, drew hundreds of spectators with family events and 15,000 rubber ducks, adorned with sunglasses, racing to a nearby dock at Lake Lanier.

The traditional bath toys were dumped into the lake at 1:30 p.m. as folks gathered along the beach cheering and calling out their duck’s number in hopes to win the grand prize, a 2009 Toyota Camry LE donated by Milton Martin Toyota.

The ducks were kept on course with a little wind and help from the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club.

The first seven ducks to make it to the winners circle were picked up by Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic.

Cronic took his shoes off and stood in the lake in order to grab the winning ducks.

"I have learned through experience to do that (get in the water) because they’re (ducks) sneaky quick," Cronic said.The Interactive Neighborhood for Kids teamed up with the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children to hold a Family Fun Day.

INK held a cake walk for the kids as well as a basketball hoop, a moon walk and beanbag games.

Even though INK gave out free temporary tattoos, balloons and stickers, Dana Miller, marketing and program director at INK, said the cake walk was "absolutely the most popular."

"This is a great opportunity for kids to be out and about and get fresh air. Just look around and you’ll see kids with smiling faces," Miller said.

Kids were indeed playing, whether at the Mad Science table, where they made bouncy balls and tornado tubes with "Neutron" Nina Kirkpatrick or learned self-defense and safety tips from Bart and Christine Edge and SafeKids.

Kirkpatrick had never been to the event, but was invited this year by INK.

"We were understocked for today but we hope to come back next year bigger and better," Kirkpatrick said.

Best Buy set up a big blue tent in the park with three large televisions set up so kids could play the Nintendo Wii for free.

If kids and families wanted something a bit more crafty, they spent time at the Advance America table for The Little League of Boating, where kids could use real tools to help build a boat from scratch.

Other tables set up at the park included State Farm Insurance, Hall County Fire Services and Gainesville Hall County Lodge No. 41, Fraternal Order of Police, where free cotton candy was handed out.

Joyce Wilson, vice president for development and marketing at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, said that more vendors were necessary to celebrate the derby’s 10th anniversary.

"We wanted to try and add new things, make this the biggest ever ... the community loves this event, they come to expect it because it’s so unique," Wilson said.

The derby sold out of ducks, raising about $100,000, with all profits going to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County. About $60,000 was from sponsorship alone, Wilson said.

Prizes including a one-carat princess cut diamond solitaire and a $500 Best Buy Gift card were given to winners of the derby.Larry Baldwin, the "head duck" as fellow volunteers called him, served as chairman of the duck derby.

Baldwin, vice president of the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs and a former Hall County prosecutor, said he would like to see kids "become productive citizens of the community" and called the derby "a great cause."


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