Over 100 runners and 3,400 ducks gathered at the 4H Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County headquarters for the sixth Annual Duck Race yesterday. The event combined a 5K run through Ithaca and a subsequent half-hour float of rubber ducks through Cascadilla Creek. Both top human and duck finishers received prizes.
The Duck Race is the Tompkins County 4H’s main fundraiser of the year. Between the money raised from the ducks and 5K entrants, the 4H gains thousands of dollars towards funding, scholarships and program maintenance.
“It’s a really awesome community event,” said Megan Tifft, Tompkins County 4H Coordinator. “All proceeds are used for scholarships, camps, events and preservation and maintenance of the 4H acres.”
The 5K run took place around noon with runners going all through Ithaca. Activities such as bean bag tosses, hula-hoops and face painting for children followed the run. Later in the afternoon, about 3,400 small rubber ducks, each individually numbered on the bottom, were released from a giant tarp and tumbled though Cascadilla falls towards the finish line near the 4H Cooperative Extension. The ducks, which were purchased individually for $5 or in a flock of five for $20, were cheered on and followed closely by hundreds of spectators as they weaved their way through the creek and across the finish line.
“It’s great for the community and is a really fun event,” said Kendy Gable ’06, 4H Duck Race Coordinator. Gable, who is a work-study student and also a member of the 4H growing up, explained the large impact the Duck Race has had on the community and its increased popularity over the years. Last year the 4H sold approximately 2,600 ducks and the total this year increased by nearly 1,000.
Prizes for the top finishing ducks ranged from $500 cash to an iPod to a portable DVD player.
The 4H is a local group that emphasizes positive youth development and learning and practicing life skills. Their oath encompasses head, heart, hands and health to help individuals aged five to 19 develop and to help themselves and their community. The 4H has been in existence for over 100 years and is dedicated to helping its nearly 7,000 members in the greater Ithaca region.
“4H is about leadership, citizenship and the developing of skills,” Gable said. “It’s not just about agriculture anymore.”
The Duck Race, which is a becoming a widespread method fundraising across the country, was brought to Ithaca by Joanne Baldini, New York State 4-H program specialist, six years ago. The event’s popularity has skyrocketed ever since and has turned into one of the largest fundraisers in the area.
“The race started as a small event but has grown every year and is very successful and fun,” Tifft said.