(June 17, 2023)
OK, they are plastic, and they are not the ducks we’ve been picking up off the beach after a container full of them fell off a ship and broke open years ago. They are ducks used in the annual July 4th Sitka Rotary Duck Race.
Each year, after the parade, Rotary dumps thousands of numbered duckies (this year 6,000) into Granite Creek from the bridge on Halibut Point Road near the Halibut Point Recreation area. Each numbered duck has a “sponsor” who has bought a ticket (okey, it is a lottery). The ducks float down the river (sometimes helped by duck wranglers with rakes in case one gets hung up on a rock or behind a log) across the finish line and into a net. The first duck wins prizes, as do other ducks that come in in certain orders. No one knows the winning ducks until they are plucked from the water and turned over to reveal their numbers. The money earned all goes to Sitka non-profits. It is a major fundraiser for the community.
But to make sure the race is on the up and up Rotary conducts an annual audit of the ducks. After the race they are scooped up into totes and in June they emerge, cleaned up if needed, and any water in them shaken out. They are macro sorted into thousands, and then hundreds, and finally laid out on grids to make sure each duck “sponsor” actually has a duck. Then they are scooped back into the totes to wait for Independence Day.
Very occasionally a duck escapes to join its “countrymen” in the Pacific gyre. (Rotary is very good at retrieving them). If a duck is missing a new one is numbered to replace the lost duckie. Every so often one is “injured.” It, too, is replaced by a new duckie.
This year Rotary is adding more ducks to increase the number of winners and to increase the funding for local non-profits. All the profits go to the non-profits, none benefits the club (disclosure, I am a member of Sitka Rotary.) All the ducks were taken by the end of May.