A down-home ducky time at the derby

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Evergreen's annual Dam Ducky Derby finds fowl up — and down — the creek

By Beth Potter

Rubber duckies quacked across the finish line in record time, buoyed by the fast-flowing waters of Bear Creek, in the fifth annual Dam Ducky Derby on Saturday.

The creek was flowing at 60 cubic feet per second, compared with its more sedate 20 cfs in previous Augusts, said John Ellis, an organizer and director of community relations at Evergreen National Bank. The first ducks crossed the finish line in less than half an hour.

The ducks bobbed quickly away from the starting line just beneath the dam at Evergreen Lake, dropped from a net hooked to the bottom of the ladder of an Evergreen Fire/Rescue truck.

“I cut the bag, and away they go,” said Steven Campbell, a volunteer firefighter, in explaining his simple but key role in getting the ducks into the water. Children and parents watched expectantly as the duck-filled net swung around from the street to a release spot high above Bear Creek. A roar went up from the crowd as the first ducks hit the water.

“Duck wranglers” Christy Rickert and Matt Duty waded into the creek with paddles to wrangle the fowl that were running afoul.

Those ducks wanted to “hide out to go to Cactus Jack's afterward,” according to an event announcer.

Evergreen resident David Shaal brought the whole family to watch the Ducky Derby after buying seven ducks, including Jasmin, 8, and mom Rebeca.

Evergreen dad Ben McCloskey and son Oliver, 3, watched with anticipation near the spillway. Ben looked around from the comfort of his dad’s shoulders. Wife Sara was with baby Cora down below, Ben McCloskey said.

Courtney Guess of Evergreen and daughter Rilee, 7, also clambered up the metal stairs to get a better look at the start. They were rooting for any of their eight ducks to win a prize.

David Erickson, 11, said he’d be happy if any of his ducks came in first, or last. (The first-place duck winner received $3,000; the last-place duck winner received a bottle of wine, which Erickson said he would give to his mom, Cathleen Erickson, if he won.)

“We bought two six-quacks and a regular,” Cathleen Erickson said, referring to the two, six-duck “quack packs” she bought (named by organizers), and one additional duck.

For Debra Hundemer, 2014 meant buying no ducks, because she didn’t have time to get them — she has been busy moving.

“Next year, I’ll buy double,” said Hundemer, who works at Evergreen Clothing Company, an event sponsor.

Tom McGrath, owner of Rio Del Sol, a top sponsor of the event, promised a free margarita to anyone bringing a duck into the restaurant. Event organizers try to collect all of the ducks every year to use the next year.

Chris Vinci, owner of Da Vinci Realty, also was excited — this year’s participation. About 6,000 yellow ducks and 300 black ducks were sold this year. Daughter Gianna, 8½, sported a painted tiger face she received from the kids carnival set up in the parking lot next to Beau Jo’s Pizza.

The Evergreen Downtown Business Association put on the event to raise money for local nonprofit groups — the Center for the Arts, Bootstraps, the Evergreen's Library summer reading program, the Evergreen Park and Recreation District special needs program, and Mount Evans Hospice/Camp Comfort.

Other volunteer “duck wranglers” were Bill Cronk, Rob Jorgensen and Neil Hailstone.