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Hay River community garden sells 911 of 1,000 ducks for a race to McMeekin Park

Nearly 1,000 rubber ducks took the plunge at the Katlodeh Bridge to race down current toward Bob McMeekin Chamber Park, Aug. 28.

Nearly 1,000 rubber ducks took the plunge at the Katlodeh Bridge to race down current toward Bob McMeekin Chamber Park, Aug. 28.

The Hay River Community Garden has been preparing a duck race fundraiser with 50/50 ticket raffle sales for most of the summer to raise money for its fruit and vegetable growing operation.

A few totes of the small duckies were dumped at 11 a.m. sharp Saturday before making their way in the current toward the town park.

Isabela Bassett, two-years-old, dabbles in some painting at the community garden's gathering at Bob McMeekin Chamber Park, Aug. 28.Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

“I think it went as ideally as it could have,” said Daryl Buhler chuckling, who was a key volunteer helping monitor the duckies from his boat. “What could have happened is we could have had 200 ducks cross the finish line at the end, but instead we had 1, 2, and then 3 cross. Then about 10 seconds later about 500 ducks came at us.”

Buhler estimated that the first duck crossed the finish line at about 11:43 a.m., meaning most of the ducks completed the route in and around the 45-minute mark.

At $20 at ticket, the community garden sold 910 tickets in a 50/50 raffle during its sales campaign, meaning that the organization raised $9,110 and handed out another $9,110 for the grand prize winner.

Paul Grant was the lucky first place to take the whole pot.

Darryl Buhler, Tyler Rea and Lee Cawson in the boat on the left and boat on the right (Jun-jun Reonal , Ian Thiesson, and Neil Bassett in the boat on the right attempt to capture rubber ducks as they pass the finish line. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Second prize, which was $2,000 went to Shawn Carter and third place, a donated lawn mower, went to Richard Johnstone.

River conditions

Buhler said the river’s conditions made the race a success and allowed for people to pick the ducks up easier.

“Fort-five minutes is pretty quick and the river is usually shallow and slow at the end of August and coming into September,” he sad.

“The benefit this year that able to be out on boats without worrying about hitting rocks.”

A big task at the end of the race was of course retrieving as many of the ducks as possible.

Darryl Buhler drives the boat as Tyler Rea and Lee Cawson scoop ducks.Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

“Picking them up was a lot easier than I thought and we definitely did our best to get the majority of them back, although there were some losses,” Buhler said, adding that the blue ones were probably the hardest ones to spot and retrieve in the water.

He said he was grateful for the assistance from many children and families who staked along the shorelines to pick up the ducks as well as kayakers and other boaters who spent a few hours getting them.

Dominique Lajoie, eight, left, and Genevieve Stephen, 10, right, scooped up rubber ducks at the shoreline after they came in.Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

“We thought the event went really well and there was a good turnout of people to come and watch the finish,” said garden president Megan Russell. “We also had families participating in lawn games and some kids involved in games under the tent to learn about vegetables and to guess the vegetable. It was all good gardening promotion that way overall and we raised a lot.”