AUBURN — For about a half-hour, close to 6,000 small rubber ducks claimed a portion of the Owasco River for themselves.
The ducks had company too. People stood side-by-side against the railings along the river by the Auburn police and fire headquarters and the Nolan Block. Young ones, light enough to sit atop their parents' shoulders, may have had the best view.
Music blared out of speakers from Market Street Park, but the volume couldn't compete against the crowd's cheers as the first rubber ducks peeked out from under the Genesee Street bridge. The race was on.
About 6,000 ducks would float by at the Auburn Kiwanis Memorial Duck Derby, an annual event that donates its proceeds to community organizations. The first handful of ducks to charge their way to the finish line right before the North Street bridge won their owners prizes. This year's fastest duck, Larry, won a pot of $3,000 for the Calvary Food Pantry. Other ducks named Quackers, Happy, Flippy and Baby #2 also won prizes.
Julia Springer, who was perched up on the Loop Road boardwalk during the derby, said she was "a little disappointed" in her duck Carl and that the two "have some training to do in the offseason."
At the finish line, a crew of Kiwanis volunteers scrambled to collect the ducks. Tucked into plastic totes, they were pulled out from the river to be stored away until next year's derby. A few of the yellow impersonators managed to get by a grated barricade at the finish line, but one volunteer, like a football safety, snatched them up with a fishing net before they could float any further down the river.
"This was really interesting," said Josh Franklin, an Auburn resident. "This was my first time seeing this, and it's clearly a big hit."
The river was cleared of rubber ducks, but it won't be long until they'll return for next year's derby.
Staff writer Dan Orzechowski can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @OrzechowskiDan.