The Homestead Acquires a Rubber Ducky

By , July 25, 2013

The other day I scrambled south along our beach to check the ripeness of the currants in the pocket of our southern point. As always, I kept an eye out for anything of interest that might have washed up on the beach.

Spotting a brightly colored object under a rock, I pulled out a small toy, which I recognized almost immediately, despite never having seen one before.

I had found a little yellow rubber duck. This is not the classic rubber ducky made famous by Ernie’s song from our childhood. Rubber duckies have gone crazy since then. This one has a ponytail, pink sun visor, blue bikini bra and Daisy Duke shorts (or are those Daisy Ducks?). She also has a towel draped around her neck. Printed across her tummy is the following: “Alyssa & Samantha.”

Skagway, to the north of Haines, holds a duck derby as part of their annual Independence Day celebration.

For those of you who have not heard of this, a duck derby is a highly entertaining form of lottery. People buy numbered rubber ducks, watch them “race” from point A to point B, and win prizes for the first duck across the finish line, and other distinctions.

The Skagway Chamber of Commerce holds the annual duck derby as a fundraiser for the community. I knew this, because a friend who stayed with us in June goes to Skagway almost every year for the 4th of July, and mentioned it. When I saw the hand-written number on the bottom of the duck, I knew I had an escapee from the Skagway duck derby.

The Skagway Duck Derby Escapee (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The Skagway Duck Derby Escapee (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I emailed the Skagway Chamber of Commerce, and Blaine Mero, the Chamber Office Administrator provided more details.

She writes that the ducks race the stream that feeds into Pullen Pond in Skagway. “The first duck across the finish line gets $1000 in cash. We have 5 random ducks that each win $100. It is the biggest fund-raiser of the year for the Skagway Chamber of Commerce and we have it at 5:00 pm on July 4th. It is very heavily attended and is an absolute blast to be a part of. It is a fun way to end the festivities of our 4th of July.”

I checked out their Facebook page. It has some great photos of the race, and of the pile of ducks. It’s worth checking out! I understand the race offers high drama, especially since some of the local dogs like to “hunt” the bobbing toys as they make their way toward the finish line.

The names on the duck came from a sponsor. Blaine wrote, “We get sponsors for ducks and the sponsors can advertise their businesses on them. The one that you found (thank heavens it has found a good home) is one that was sponsored by a Grandmother who wanted to sponsor ducks for her two grand-daughters.”

I offered to return the duck, but Bliane suggested that I keep it, as it had already made their “Missing Duck” list. I replied that I would, unless the sponsoring grandmother wanted it back. I do not, as a rule, cross grandmothers if I can help it . . . .

Blaine says you need not be present to win. If you want to enter the race next year, contact the Skagway Chamber of Commerce around mid-May, and they’ll send you tickets after they receive your check. Tickets cost $10 each, and the proceeds go to The Skagway Chamber of Commerce. Since they are a non-profit, they rely on ticket sales to help survive the year and pay for all the activities that happen during the year. Your purchase will help perpetuate small town Alaskan life.

As for how this particular duck got into Lynn Canal and fetched up on the homestead beach, that’s not entirely clear. Blaine says that at the end of the race, people who have purchased tickets can trade their ticket stub in for a duck; the ducks are only available at that time. I assume someone got a duck, then lost it in the fjord afterward. That seems more likely than it floating out of Pullen Pond undetected.

At any rate, the duck joins our odd assortment of jetsam that we’ve collected on our beach over the years. I have a beloved sister-in-law who collects these ducks, so there’s a chance that she may someday talk me out of it. Either way, we won’t, as Blaine admonished us, forget to feed the duck.

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