As more than 2,200 colorful plastic ducks floated patiently in the starting gates at the Sixth Annual Heather-Treat Memorial Duck Race, a couple hundred duck owners lined up along a fence row above the race course with dozens of children quacking in harmony awaiting the starting gun.
And they were off.
Temperatures soared into the 90s Sunday settling the racers into a huddled corner of the starting gate as a gentle wind continued to favor the beginning of the course leaving race officials no alternative other than to prod them into the open.
And the leaf blowers were out sending the ducks racing down the course with winners taking early leads and holding fast until the finish.
In track one a green duck glided across the finish line first providing Michelle Maple of Marion a $500 purse and Stephaneys Bargain Boutique in Vienna a $100 sellers bonus. In track two, a purple duck made its way across the finish line first awarding a last-minute purchase by Brooklyn Shoemaker $500 and leaving the $100 sellers bonus with the memorial fund.
“It was a great day for a race and we feel very blessed to have such a successful fundraiser,” said event organizer Robin Harper-Whitehead. “But it would never be the success that it is without everyone selling, buying, working, volunteering and just plain coming out and having a great time.”
Harper-Whitehead said the duck race has become a community effort that has spread outside Johnson County and Illinois as well. The race generated more than $13,000 and over the years has become the largest single donor to the Heather-Treat Memorial Fund, which provides financial assistance to Johnson County cancer patients.
“We sold more ducks, gave away more money and had more vendors than in the past and were already looking at adding more for next year,” said Harper-Whitehead.
Before the ducks took to the starting gates several dozen children, and later a few adults, raced in sacks, tossed water balloons and balanced an egg on a spoon as they vied for placement in several rounds of pre-duck racing.
Awards were provided to all children participating in the races and in keeping in good sportsmanship, the duck losers were even winners with the two ducks languishing in last place awarding Kerry Hirtzel of Effingham and Marti Hinz of Goreville $250 each.
Duck sellers were rewarded as well with Pam Morris, This N That Shoppe, Sherry Throgmorton and Peace Club Youth of Tunnel Hill Community of Christ Church topped that list and ten randomly drawn ducks put $25 in the pockets of their lucky owners.
Food, games, prizes and music filled the day as vendors lined the Bella Terra Winery race headquarters and volunteers kept pace with the event schedule.
The ducks retired back to their boxes after a long day in the sun and now patiently await next years race in which the winners are always the residents of Johnson County who come for the fun and provide for the fund.