Rubber duckie, you're the one sixteen-thousandth

Yesterday was one of the truly weirder events in Rapid City: the 17th annual Black Hills Duck Race. A fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network, this is a water race in which the contestants   coast their way down one-and-a-half miles of Rapid Creek.

Oh, and  the contestants are  sixteen thousand sunglasses-wearing rubber duckies.

Rubber duckies

Yep, hundreds of people run along the creek to cheer on sixteen thousand  bespectacled bath toys as they are carried by  the creek’s current for a mile and a half.   In triple-digit heat.   You might think that a tad foolish (or indeed suicidal), but then you don’t know the hearty roots of South Dakotans.

The race begins with  the 16,000 bath toys deposited in the business end of a massive loader parked on a street overpass directly above the creek.   When the last duck is included, the loader raises its arm and all the folks assembled to watch proceed to count down to the start of the race —  “10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1!” — at which point the loader simply dumps them into the creek.

3! 2! 1!

Ever wonder what sixteen thousand rubber ducks in one place look like?   This:

16000 ducks

The ducks then make their merry way down the creek.   Initially working their way downstream in a massive blotch of yellow plastic, the ducks eventually disperse.   Many of the unlucky ones get stuck in the rocks or wander too close to shore, where they get snagged by tree roots and creek grass.   But thousands of others, in some unintuitive display of reverse entropy, neatly align themselves in a near-straight line and proceed in an amazingly orderly procession down the last mile of the trip.

Duck racing

More duck racing

Sitting by the ducks in the bay

The race ends where the creek passes through Memorial Park in Rapid City.   Partly motivated by the spirit of the race, and partly suffering from heatstroke-induced delirium from the scorching  heat, the crowd cheers the ducks on to the finish.

The duck stops here

The prize for winning?   Apparently, they are frozen in carbonite and  stored in  a big cylinder.   I’m not sure what that’s about.

Duck tube

Anyways, I got lots more pictures of this surreal event.   Enjoy.

Duck race pictures

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