The Great Rubber Duckie Wrangle

Boulder Creek Festival – Monday – Memorial Day 2010

French Duckie and his Mistress - Boulder Creek Festival - Rubber Duck Race

Every American town in existence for more than 50 years previous has some odd celebration with a competition or event unusually individual to their character. Take for a single instance Gloucester, Massachusetts with their Greasy Pole. Hundreds of Italians walk the plank in a multi tiered, costumed, onslaught of slipping and sliding, drag for the day spidermen in honor of Saint Peter, the rock. Their objective is to grab a firm hold of the flag at the end of the mast and take it down with them. You can only walk on a Saturday if you won on a Friday. Sunday is the big day, the finale, where the winner no longer needs to walk for the rest of the day because the fellow competitors carry him from bar to bar. He or she no longer needs to pay for any drinks that either and they will be drinking whether they like it or not. You can only walk on Sunday if you won on a Saturday. To keep the membership full on the remaining days of the weekend, these walking honors are retrospective. If you have ever won on one of the earlier days, you may walk in the next. Then, I would suppose, the people who started the tradition started dying or getting to old to walk 25feet over the ocean on a lubed up log. They started having knee problems and poor physical conditions. What were they to do, but hand the honor down to a younger, more fit, family member or close friend? The last day is filled with the townies walking for grandfathers, great grandfathers, great great grandfathers, uncles, brothers, sons, close friends of the family, as well as those that won throughout the weekend.

Greasy Pole – Saint Peter’s Italian Festival – Gloucester, MA – 2006

In Boulder the physical competition to kick off the summer is the Memorial Day weekend Bolder Boulder 10k run. Sorry, no pictures of that. I had a friend that ran it. I wanted so badly to be at the starting line motivating her beginnings or at least at the finish rooting her on, but the rest of the weekend caused a blight to my own energy leaving me in bed until well past the comings and goings of the costumed crusaders pushing themselves to victory and then into the afternoon when most had already returned home, showered, and changed back into civvies. She saw a stoutly athletic woman running in a lacy pink bra and said to herself, “I must beat that lady.” She did. She finished at 60:58, fifty nine seconds more than what she hoped to finish by. I ran a 5k in San Diego for the homeless on Thanksgiving, more like I walked the 5k, in a little more than 2 hours. For double the distance at half my time, I was impressed.

The Great Rubber Ducky Race – Boulder Creek Festival – Boulder, CO 2010

The unusual event is the Great Rubber Duckie Race. They dumped over 7,000 ducks into the creek with numbers on their butt for a short, but furious, sprint downstream. It took longer for them to rig up the drop than it did for every duck to make it to the end. Children stood on the banks with nets, catching and releasing the yellow favorites of the Ernie fame. Rubber Ducky, you are the one. Like all modern day weird festivities like the greasy pole, the activists get involved. Instead of motor oil to slicken the pole, now they use all organic matter like rotten bananas and vegetable butter. In Boulder the eco friendly modification involved a mesh wire fence across the creek. Still, the stubborn ducks leapt over and under the barricade despite the effort of the wranglers in front and behind and then further behind for the missed stragglers. Last, but not least, another group of kids with nets at the park even further behind scooped them out of the pool. Some man yelled at me for getting my own. Actually, he yelled at me for tossing them over the rapids to the bank on the other side so the children there could have some too. His exact words were, “Don’t throw them. Hold onto them over there. I want them all back.” Blake, who stood near the naysayer on the other side, called out to me, “Only in designated areas.” Evidently, the ducks had an allotted area of the creek to do their thing. Beyond that must be stopped. 10 years ago they let them swim all the way to the next reservoir. Kids in Erie were picking out ducks for the rest of the summer. I heard rumors that the original race involved real ducks spray painted bright gold with lead based paint, but I do not believe them.

All about the Money - Boulder Creek Festival - Rubber Duck Race

I could have understood the man’s worry if it concerned some tyke falling into the cascade, but it was not. It was about money. The organization did not want to buy new ducks for the following year at a dime a piece. Lets do the math. 7,000 divided by .10 equals 700 bucks. This is not a figure to shake your head at. We will be generous and figure a quarter of the ducks will need to be replaced from damage or loss or thievery. 700 divided by 4 is 175. Still, this is a week of rent for me. Now we get the big numbers. It cost 5 bucks a duck to compete. 7,000 times 5 equals 35, 000. The prizes come out to less than 5,000 making it 30 grand even though all of them are donated to the cause. Screw you, buddy. I am keeping my ducks.

Fun in Designated Areas Only - Boulder Creek Festival - Rubber Duck

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