This Thursday (tomorrow) Chicago hosts a quirky, Ernie-endorsed fundraiser: the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby. Sponsored ducks will race along the Chicago river to raise money for Special Olympics. We spoke to the people behind this ingenious campaign to inform Chicagoans about what they’ll see floating by on the river at 1:00pm tomorrow. Quack for the Cause!
Where did the idea for this kind of fundraiser come from?!
Special Olympics Illinois wanted to go ‘quackers’ over a fun summer fundraiser. And we have the perfect venue here for a duck race – the beautiful Chicago River!
Why do the ducks have sunglasses?
The ducks look very cool in their shades, plus the sunglasses complement their brightly-colored lips.
Will there be a starting line or a running – ahem, swimming – start? What is the ‘Duck Splashdown’?
The yellow Komatsu “duck truck” will pull up to the south side of the Columbus Drive bridge (after the north side has been raised) and dump 30,000+ little rubber ducks into the Chicago River. Then it’s every duck for himself as they race to the finish-
How do teams keep track of their ducks?
It’s a little tricky to find your duck among the thousands of ducks in the River, but everyone knows their duck is in the lead.
Do participants get to keep their ducks after the race? What happens to all the ducks after the race?
All the racing ducks are scrubbed after the race and sent on to the next race in a far-away place. However, Special Olympics Illinois has duplicate souvenir ducks available for sale before the race on Michigan Avenue or on the website.
What can people do to ensure their duck wins?
Adopt lots of ducks for $5 each to benefit Special Olympics Illinois here (through July 29 at 4pm) or on Michigan Avenue starting at 6:30am on race day – July 30. You can also call to adopt ducks on race day morning by calling 1-877-9SPLASH.
Where should spectators watch? How visible is the race from Michigan Ave or the various bridges that cross the river?
Bring your lunch and camera and position yourself on either side of the river between Columbus and Michigan; it’s a great chance to experience the fabulous River Walk on the south side. The ducks will be corralled over to the north side of the river by a boom, so that river traffic can continue. A tugboat will spray water on the ducks to propel them to the finish line!
Have you caught any ducks cheating? What is the penalty for cheating?
Some ducks jump the boom and try to make a run to the finish line, but we have people in boats to scoop them up with nets and disqualify them from the race!
If ESPN were to cover this event, what highlights would they show?
No sporting event has a more dramatic start than this race. You can feel the excitement as ducks jockey for position along the edge of the boom and try to line themselves up to be the first in the duck trap halfway to Michigan Avenue.
Is there any plan to change it to a different animal anytime soon? Maybe dolphins?
Some of our Special Olympics athletes have suggested frogs, but then we would need lily pads also.
Does this fundraiser take place in other cities?
The duck race takes place in cities and towns all over the country, but we have the best one right here in Chicago.
Seems like a great fundraiser that benefits Illinois Special Olympics. Any other way people can get involved in helping the Special Olympics?
Special Olympics training and competition takes place all year round in 19 summer and winter sports, so we use lots of volunteers. There are many exciting fundraisers happening to benefit the more than 22,000 children and adults involved in the program in Illinois. Check out the website for information on getting involved and supporting Special Olympics.