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.
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.
Ever wonder what sixteen thousand rubber ducks in one place look like? This:
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.
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 prize for winning? Apparently, they are frozen in carbonite and stored in a big cylinder. I’m not sure what that’s about.
Anyways, I got lots more pictures of this surreal event. Enjoy.