Derby dunks 2,000 ducks


As people enjoyed the riverfront and downtown activities for Portsmouth River Days, Friends of Portsmouth volunteers and staff were working tirelessly to not only directly manage the event and make sure things run smoothly, but also working on fundraising efforts to make the $100,000 event possible.

The latest big fundraising effort the team has made in recent years includes the popular Ducky Derby, which sees 2,000 rubber ducks dunked into the river from the bridge. Paddlers, boaters on jet skis and more take to the water to call the race, as ducks flow down river towards a finish line. People hold their breath, as the colorful ducks float downstream, hoping their number gets called and they walk away with a prize.

The first duck to cross the line wins the owner $1,000. The second duck earns $500, and the third duck earns $250.

“We were looking for creative ways to fund River Days and decided on the derby. Obviously, everyone knows it is very expensive to put on,” Friends of Portsmouth Volunteer and Founder Tim Wolfe said. “It is over $100,000 to organize now, and it is a free event. We are going to try and keep it as a free event as long as we can, so we look for fundraisers like the Ducky Derby, because they tie into the river.”

Wolfe said that the fundraising efforts depend on sales, and he encourages people to buy ducks to keep the River Days possible. Each duck is only $10. Wolfe said that around 600 ducks were sold this year.

While 600 were sold, 2,000 ducks still go into the water to create a visually appealing scene for onlookers who wait to see the ducks dunked. Wolfe said people have fun with the theme.

“People bring their kids down and some are even dressed as ducks, the VIP tent had cupcakes with little ducks on them, and Typhoon Tommy is even putting on a special freestyle event with world champion freestyle jet ski guys duck jumping, doing all sorts of freestyle events,” Wolfe said. “The jet ski performers will even be working with the dunk, as I heard you were.”

Portsmouth Daily Times’ Joseph Pratt and his wife, Sara, were also assisting in the derby, alongside Tim Wolfe and Country Swaro Robby. The four went out in kayaks, alongside the Sheriff’s Department, to collect the rubber ducks and find the winner.

“This is just one of those traditions that we want little kids to grow up and be able to recall. I remember, when I was younger, we had boats going from wall to wall, because we had more boats,” Wolfe said. “For now, we are going to do things like this to bring events back to the water. Our city has evolved to where most of the activities take place in the downtown, when it used to be the river. I believe River Days will eventually evolve onto that. The kids will definitely be making memories, though, because that is what it is all about.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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