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Ducks take a dunking for the kids at annual Derby fundraiser
Event's proceeds at Olympic Park benefit local Boys & Girls Clubs
Rubber ducks are released into Lake Lanier on Saturday, May 5, to begin the annual Rubber Duck Derby Fundraiser at Lake Lanier Olympic Park. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls clubs of Lanier. - photo by Layne Saliba

Chelsea Clark took a deep breath as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier’s 20th annual Rubber Duck Derby got underway.

Clark, event marketing and volunteer coordinator with the Boys & Girls Clubs, said it had sold about 17,000 ducks to be released into Lake Lanier at Clarks Bridge Park on Saturday, May 5, all to raise more than $85,000 during the organization’s largest community fundraiser.

“It’s always a ton of work, but we really have a lot of great employees at the Boys & Girls Clubs and a lot of great board members and volunteers that are willing to give up their time and resources to make this happen,” Clark said.

The weather was overcast Saturday, but a bit improvement over last year when much of the event was rained out. Clark said a lot of people were disappointed there wasn’t much of a festival last year, so this time, she made sure there were plenty of activities. That included music, free bounce houses, pony rides and a petting zoo for kids. A couple food trucks were on site and a tent dispensing cotton candy.

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Rubber ducks sprint toward the finish in Lake Lanier on Saturday, May 5, to begin the annual Rubber Duck Derby Fundraiser at Lake Lanier Olympic Park. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls clubs of Lanier. - photo by Layne Saliba
As 2:30 p.m. approached, though, those activities were left behind as all of the guests gathered near the shoreline.

Shay Lewis is new to the area and recently started working for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier. This was her first experience at the derby and she said she had similar feelings as Clark did.

“It was a lot of fun and it was a lot of work,” Lewis said. “But it’s nice to see everything come together and everybody having fun.”

A barge carrying a large container filled with rubber ducks sounded its horn and slowly lifted the container, causing the ducks to fall out. As they slowly floated the 528-foot course, Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch made his way to the water. After a little more than 10 minutes, Couch was able to pull a $10,000 grand-prize winner from the water, along with the runners-up.

“I didn’t know what to think at first,” said Demetrius Hartley, who was visiting from North Carolina. “But everything they’re doing with the duck derby and the racing, it’s awesome.”

He was aiming to win free Chick-fil-A for a year, so he said he bought a grandpack of 25 ducks in hopes of getting one of the runner-up prizes.

All of the money raised from the event goes to help the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier. Clark said it helps in making sure there is enough staff to make things run smoothly and provide for the different programs offered. Without the derby, the clubs wouldn’t be able to fund much of what they do.

“We’re able to provide these services to kids either for free or a very, very low cost,” Clark said. “We really couldn’t do (it) without the community and those programs they’re benefitting.”

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