- David Ginisi
They bob. They weave. They float merrily down the river, oblivious to screaming fans cheering them on their way. It’s unlikely those flocks of bright yellow waterfowl know that they’re competing for fame and fortune – not their own fortune, but the humans who have adopted them for the day.
Rubber ducky races are trending in North Central Massachusetts these days: Fitchburg, Harvard, and Pepperell are hot spots for this popular competition, trying the races into community celebrations in a light-hearted, family fun way.
Here’s the deal: You “adopt” a numbered duck (or a pair, or a whole flock of them) for a nominal fee. On race day, you cheer your ducky on as it swims downstream after being unceremoniously dumped into the moving water. And if The Force is with you, your bird edges out hundreds of others, crossing the finish line quickly and earning you a prize.
What could be easier? You win the race without even breaking a sweat!
Pick a Duck Pal:
Want to join the fun? It’s easy! The Ayer Rotary Club holds its Duck Wucky Race in conjunction with Harvard’s annual Apple Blossom Festival in May. Expect to see up to 5,000 of the yellow birds swimming in the Nashua in a race that dishes up a unique top prize: dinner for two anywhere in the world (airfare included). Past prizewinners have traveled to Venice, Paris, Tokyo, Cape Town, Sydney, and Jakarta.
There are, of course, lots of runner-up prizes for slower swimmers including gift certificates for everything from coffee beans to oil changes. Adopt-a-duck tickets can be purchased at a number of local businesses in the weeks leading up to the race, or at the Apple Blossom Festival on Harvard’s town common on race day.
Civic Duck Duty:
The Amazing Duck Race in Fitchburg, meanwhile, will be held in conjunction with the city’s Civic Days celebration – which for decades has been centered around the Fourth of July. The race, launched at Riverfront Park in downtown Fitchburg, is a lively affair, with thousands of rubber duckies wending their way down the river that formerly powered the city’s industry. The duck’s short trip down the Nashua starts at 6 pm on Saturday, July 6th, and there will be plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’ as the duckies bump their way to the finish line. Ducks can be adopted at a number of city businesses – but you can also get in the race with some successful sleuthing. From mid-January through June, a ducky named Shades spends his days hiding in the city. Put on your best detective hat, check for clues posted on the Civic Days Facebook page, and locate the sneaky duck: Find him and win two free entrees in the Amazing Duck Race!
There are lots of prizes awaiting the holders of the winning duck racers, so it’s bound to be an exciting event! Want more excitement? Wally, the Boston Red Sox mascot, will be among those cheering the ducks on to the finish line!
Jump into Fall:
The duck race in Pepperell, meanwhile, takes place in September, when the town holds its Fall Festival. The Pepperell Business Association handles this race, which benefits local scholarships. Check the association’s website for up to date information on the autumn competition.
Get Your Ducks in a Row:
Ready to take the plunge? Pick a town, a time of year, a favorite duck and get in the swim for one (or more) of these exciting races. You might just end up with the lucky duck!