SILVERDALE — Giant rubber ducks have been popping up all over town lately. In front of businesses, on street corners and in parks, the sight of the big yellow aquatic birds adorned with dark sunglasses has been impossible to escape.
Their presence brings awareness to one of the main attractions at the weekend-long Whaling Days event at Silverdale Waterfront Park.
In an annual race put on by the Silverdale Rotary Club, 18,000 rubber ducks take their marks, get set, and with the sound of an air horn, they are released into their giant bathtub — in this case, it’s Dyes Inlet — competing to be the first one across the finish line.
“This is the show,” said Scott Slocum, a member and past president of the Silverdale Rotary Club, and the head of “duck operations” for this year’s race.
Although it is lots of fun for the whole family to see these rubber duckies make their way across the race course, the event is also an important fundraiser for the Silverdale Rotary Club.
Slocum said the duck race has netted about $80,000 in each of the past few years, and all of the money goes back to the community through various philanthropic endeavors. For example, in 2011, Rotary pledged $200,000 to the Silverdale Haselwood Family YMCA over a five-year period to cover construction costs for the facility.
But the duck race is on the mind of some Rotarians year-round. Securing sponsorships for the costs involved in running the race — and the prizes to be given out — and preparing for the big day begins around October, said Slocum.
In June, Rotary members start selling tickets for the adopt-a-duck program. Each ticket gives the buyer an entry in the race.
“It takes a year of planning for a one-day event,” said Scott Weninger, a Rotary member who oversees the cleanup of the ducks. “It’s a big deal in the community.”
This year, the top prize was a Nissan “Duck Truck” or $16,000 in cash. Other prizes include a cruise for two and the ever-elusive $1 million prize, which has never been given out in the duck race’s 24-year history.
Six ducks are designated as a “million dollar duck” before the race. If one of them is the first to cross the finish line, the person to whom the duck belongs wins not only the truck, but the $1 million as well. Much like the previous 23 years, the first place duck in 2017 was not a million dollar duck.
Even after the completion of the race, the work is still not done. Since the ducks are rented, those remaining in the water have to be carefully corralled, so they can be cleaned and sent off to their next race. Over the years, Rotarians have learned the hard way how to best collect them, but it is still a time-consuming process.
“I’ve spent hours in a boat before picking up ducks,” said Weninger.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.