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It’s ready, set, race for the 21st Rubber Duck Derby
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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

The ducks are on their way for the 21st-annual Rubber Duck Derby on Lake Lanier.

About 20,000 rubber ducks will be dumped into the lake at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, on a 176-yard course at Clarks Bridge Park, with one duck being crowned champion and winning one lucky person $10,000.

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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
“We put 20,000 rubber ducks on a truck, the truck goes on a barge, the barge goes on the lake and we dump them all into Lake Lanier right in front of the course,” said Regina Gore, director of development and communications for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier.

As the ducks float down the course, volunteer kayakers make sure none get stuck by making waves and splashing along the way with their paddles.

Rubber Duck Derby

Where: 3105 Clarks Bridge Road, Gainesville

When: 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 11; Festival at 3 p.m., derby at 5:30 p.m., concert at 6 p.m.

More info:

The Rubber Duck Derby is the largest community fundraising event for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier. The proceeds raised during the derby go back to the organization, which has 15 different clubs in the area, to help provide programs and opportunities for the kids who take part.

“We see about 1,000 kids every day at our 15 sites,” said Abb Hayes, duck sales coordinator for the event. “As you can imagine, it takes a lot of money to handle that many kids, so this is just part of what we do to raise the money we need to serve the children and youth every day.”

Leading up to the event, until an hour before the ducks are released, ducks can be “adopted.” Purchasing one duck will set you back $6, but if you want a greater shot at winning the top prize, you can purchase multiple ducks and receive a discount.

A “quackpack” of six ducks is $30 and a “grandpack” of 25 ducks is $125.

“As much as it is about fundraising, it’s just as much about what we call ‘friendraising,’” Gore said. “It keeps our signature event in the public’s eye and also keeps us associated with a really fun event and helps introduce donors to the Boys and Girls Clubs.”

Whether people buy a duck, donate or go as far as to volunteer with the organization, Gore said they’re appreciate all the help they can get.

Apart from the $10,000 grand prize, runners-up can take home a $5,000 diamond from Gainesville Jewelry, a 5,500-watt generator, a Yeti cooler and more.

Each duck that gets adopted will have a number on the bottom that’s associated with its “adoptive parent.” So far, 11,161 have been adopted. Most of the adoptions come in the last couple days and on the day of the event.

“We’re just over the halfway mark,” Gore said. “And we always have a lot of excitement toward the end. So I’m shooting for us to be just about sold out on the day of the event.”

If you get there early, you’ll be able to check out the bounce houses, pony rides and petting zoo along with food trucks like Kona Ice, Hot Dog Ninja, Jimmy’s Real Pit BBQ and drinks provided by Tap It. In recent years, they’ve tried to make it more of a festival that families can enjoy for the whole evening. After the derby, the Fly Betty Band will be there to perform.

“I think people will really have a good time,” Hayes said. “Hang out by the lake and watch the duck race, get something to eat, listen to the band. It will be a fun time.”

Hayes is hoping the event raises even more money this time around than it has in years past. It’s all going to a good cause and one he’s been involved with for 20 years, so he knows how much of a difference the Rubber Duck Derby makes.

“At the end of the day, we’re serving a ton of kids that really need our services,” Hayes said. “So we encourage everyone to pitch in and buy some ducks to help us out. We've got a lot of needs and this just helps us meet them.”

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Turner Clark, 7, plays in the bounce house Saturday, May 5, at the annual Rubber Duck Derby fundraiser at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park. - photo by Layne Saliba
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