Tag Archives: Great Duck Race

Westport’s Goal: A World Record Duck

Each spring, a giant inflatable duck floats in the Saugatuck River. It’s a fun, funny promotion for the Sunrise Rotary Club’s Great Duck Race.

This spring, he gets a companion.

On April 27, the 8th annual Maker Faire features a Great Duck Project. Attendees will try to set a world record for the largest 3D printed duck.

It’s “the first of its kind global crowd-sourcing science and art initiative,” says Mark Mathias. He’s the founder of the Westport’s Maker Faire, and a Sunrise Rotary member.

Artist’s rendering of the 6-foot 3D duck.

“Global” is no exaggeration. People from around the world are invited to 3D print and submit pieces. They’ll be combined into a 6-foot tall, 476-piece duck.

Mathias takes “around the world” literally. He reached out to the McMurdo station in Antarctica, to see if they’ll participate.

He even went galactic, asking if the International Space Station could print a part, then return it to earth on a supply mission. (Party-pooping NASA said no.)

But keeping the Great Duck Project terrestrial should be interesting enough.

Don’t have your own 3D printer? No sweat. There are plenty around, in libraries, schools and offices.

Once the world-record duck is printed, it won’t disappear. You can see it at the Memorial Day parade — and, of course, the Great Duck Race.


(The Great Duck Project is a collaboration of the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club and Greens Farms Academy, which serves as the “technical lead.” For more information or to participate, click here. or contact Mark Mathias: mark@remarkablesteam.org; 203-226-1791.)

Pic Of The Day #418

Crowds line Parker Harding Plaza for the start of today’s Great Duck Race. Nearly 3,000 plastic yellow ducks are corraled at the north end of the Saugatuck River. The event is a major fundraiser for Westport’s Sunrise Rotary Club. (Drone photo/Ryan Felner)

Pics Of The Day #409

A bird’s-eye view of the Great Duck Race duck …

… and a wider-angle duck (Drone photos/Ben Berkley)

Pic Of The Day #403

Double duck on the Saugatuck (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Is That Your Duck?

This was the scene earlier this afternoon, as the first of over 2,000 plastic ducks entered the Great Duck Race chute.

The winning duck won a $5,000 gift card. Nine other winners split another $5,000.

The fun- and fundraising event — complete with face painting, a bouncy ride and more — helps Westport’s Sunrise Rotary Club distribute tens of thousands of dollars to good causes, here and around the world.

If you missed the action, click here for 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner’s livestream on Facebook. Be warned: There was a false start. The action starts at the 17:30 mark.

Sunny Breaks Through Clouds

Though dirty and bruised, Sunny the Duck is back bobbin’ along.

The very large and quite noticeable mascot for next Saturday’s Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race had a rough couple of days. High winds toppled the poor guy.

A lesser duck might have folded.

But Sunny is made of sterner stuff. Here he is, an hour or so ago:

(Photo/Wendy Cusick)

To honor Sunny at next Saturday’s race — or just participate and have fun — click here.

Lord Love A Duck

The tide was in their favor. The wind was not.

So this afternoon’s Great Duck Race  was contested at less than warp speed.

That hardly mattered. A large crowd gathered at Parker Harding Plaza. Kids enjoyed face painting, a bounce house and games.

Adults bought rubber “ducks” — over 2,000 of them. At 3 p.m. they were dumped in the river.

At 3:30 the race began. Slowly — very slowly — the ducks made their way downstream.

Finally, a winner emerged. That duck earned its owner a $5,000 Visa debit card.

Nine other winners shared other Visa prizes.

But the real winners are the recipients of more than $20,000 in grants and projects that Westport Sunrise Rotary can now fund.

A Sunrise Rotary member wrangles the ducks before the start of the race.

A Sunrise Rotary member wrangles over 2,000 ducks before the start of the race.

Crowds gathered at Parker Harding Plaza to enjoy plenty of duck-related activities.

Crowds gathered at Parker Harding Plaza to enjoy duck-related activities.

One of the main attractions was a vintage fire engine.

One of the main attractions was a vintage fire engine.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sported a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sported a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat.

It was a slow, but photo, finish near the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.

It was a slow, but photo, finish near the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.

Rotary Duck Succumbs To Heat

Sunny — the 23-foot inflatable duck promoting Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race on June 4 — has been the most popular downtown attraction since The Crane.

After hanging out by the library, he moved over to more ducky territory: the Saugatuck River.

Today’s near-90-degree heat must have gotten to him, though. Alert “06880” reader Dorian Barth spotted Sunny keeled over:

(Photo/Dorian Barth)

(Photo/Dorian Barth)

Or maybe he was just resting.


If you’ve never been to a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race, here’s the poop:

You pay $20 for a toy duck — one of these:

Duck - ducks

They’re dumped in the Saugatuck River. The one that races fastest downstream earns a $5,000 Visa gift card. Nine other prizes are worth $5,000 more.

This year’s winner was American Pharoah. (Just kidding.)

There was lots more going on at Jesup Green today too. Staples’ Interact Club — a community service organization that works with the Rotarys — sponsored a 5K race.

A dunk tank featured celebrities like Planning & Zoning Commission chair Chip Stephens:

Duck - Chip Stephens

Non-profits, local businesses, even the Fire Department staffed booths. Here’s Charlie Colasurdo, student liaison at Wakeman Town Farm, showing off (of course) ducks (lower right) and an egg:

Duck - Charlie Colasurdo

There was a climbing wall too:

Duck - climbing wall

It’s all for a good cause. Before the race, Sunrise Rotary handed out $34,500 in grants, to 26 area organizations and charities.

Duck - grants

Recipients include Andrew’s Army, CLASP Homes, Connecticut Challenge, Earthplace, Mercy Learning Center, Positive Directions, Project Return and the Susan Fund.

So even if your duck didn’t win, there was plenty to smile about downtown today.

The Great Race: From Disco Days To Ducks

For a number of years, Sunrise Rotary has sponsored a Great Duck Race. It’s a fun fundraiser — you bet on rubber duckies that are dumped into the Saugatuck River. The day is filled with kids’ activities like a bouncy house, a climbing wall and dunk tank.

This year’s event — on Saturday, June 13 — will be preceded by a 5K run, sponsored by Staples High School’s Interact community service club.

It’s a wonderful town event — something that makes money for good causes, and brings plenty of Westporters together.

But those who were here back in the day remember its predecessor: the Great Race. That was to the current incarnation as Gloria Gaynor is to Taylor Swift.

You don’t believe me? Check out this video.

You can see a lot of bizarre stuff on YouTube. But this ranks right up there.

In tones befitting Marlon Perkins on “Wild Kingdom” — or, this century, an endangered-species documentary on the National Geographic Channel — a narrator breathlessly describes what seems to be a very odd tradition in our coastal community.

“Just another lazy day along the river in Westport, Connecticut,” the 1977* video begins. “Except that this is the day of the Great Race.”

After describing the event — a 1-mile run, a 3-mile row or paddle out to Cockenoe Island, picking up 1 pound of garbage, then rowing or paddling back for a 1st-place prize of $1,000 — the narrator declares that on Great Race Day, Westport is the center of “high international drama.” (Cut to an interview with an Australian guy.)

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

There are classic quotes — “We run to the liquor store to get our bodies in shape” — interspersed with vintage shots of downtown, and the not-sure-if-it’s-tongue-in-cheek-or-not description of a team that trained “in a handmade aluminum craft for an entire year, just for this race.”

In fact, I’m not sure if the entire video is serious, a satire, or just a goof. When you see 2 teams fighting over a piece of garbage on Cockenoe, you’ll wonder too.

Running down Taylor Place, to the start at the Post Road bridge.

Running down Taylor Place, to the boat launch at the Post Road bridge.

But — as the narrator notes — “constant seamanship and vigilance” were keys to winning the Great Race.

And, at the end, “the townspeople have come together with their picnic lunches to cheer and debate their favorites. The memories will keep for a whole year.”

See you June 13 at the Great Duck Race!

Paddling ...

Paddling …

...and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

…and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

*YouTube says the video is from 1977. However, the bicentennial flag, and several comments, would indicate it is actually from 1976.

(Hat tips: Jack Whittle, Ted Friedman, Rich Stein)