Thousands of ducks will descend upon the Mississippi River on Saturday in Brainerd.
Not the feathery waterfowl but the little, squeaky, yellow kind more associated with a child’s bathtub. And the ducks will not so much descend as they will fall into the river from the Laurel Street bridge.
That’s when the race is on, literally, for what the Brainerd Jaycees plan to be an annual event aimed at raising money for youth sports in the Brainerd area.
Big Bill’$ Lil’ Rubber Duckie Race will feature more than 4,000 rubber ducks racing from the Laurel Street bridge to Kiwanis Park. The ducks are being raffled for $5 with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to area charities, primarily the Lakes Area Youth Soccer Association.
Buyers of the raffle tickets will receive a number that will correspond with a duck on the river. The holder of the first-place duck will receive $2,500, second place is $1,000 and third place is $750. In addition, places 4 through 30 also will receive a prize.
Bill Lowe, Brainerd Jaycees president, said he was looking for a fundraiser and learned duck races are done across the country. He also noted such races were done in Brainerd about 20 years ago, once as a Fourth of July event.
“We wanted to do an event where we could help kids, specifically youth sports,” Lowe said. “We wanted something where we could find a unique way to do a raffle instead of just asking for donations.
“A lot of people are excited about the event and can’t wait to see it. Hopefully, it does draw a decent crowd.”
Raffle tickets will be sold until Friday afternoon at Cub Foods, Pine Square, College Square, Taco John's, Amstar. On Saturday tickets will be sold from 9 a.m. until noon at the Laurel Street bridge.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, the ducks will be dropped from a payloader on the bridge and into the chilly waters of the Mississippi River, racing their way to Kiwanis Park. The Official Pace Duckie boat — a Jaycee member’s personal boat painted bright yellow with a wooden duck head mounted at the bow — will keep watch on the river. The ducks will be stopped and taken to shore using a v-shaped boom spanning the width of the river at Kiwanis Park.
A couple of test runs in October showed it takes about 30 minutes for the ducks to float from the bridge to Kiwanis Park, Lowe said.
Lowe said the Jaycees intend the race to be an annual event, and with the investment of the rubber ducks out of the way prizes can be expected to grow in the future.
Zane Vastila, a LAYSA member who is coordinating the race with Lowe, said the event means a lot to his organization because there are no other fundraisers.
“We are a nonprofit organization that’s just trying to make ends meet right now,” Vastila said.
The hope, Vastila said, is that proceeds from the annual event could lead to a soccer complex in Brainerd.
“Not to mention that once we start getting funds like that we can start bringing down our costs,” Vastila said. “Once we do that, more people become interested and our program starts growing. It’s kind of a snowball effect.”
Vastila said LAYSA had more than 200 participants this past year and the sport of soccer is growing in the Brainerd area.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.