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Derby transforms American River into duck soup

Chamber race raises funds for local nonprofits
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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They floated down the American River from near the Foresthill Bridge almost to the confluence. And despite wind, eddies and obstacles, they all — 1,665 of them — made it to the finish line during the Auburn Chamber of Commerce’s first Wild Duck Derby Saturday. “It went really well. It was from our perspective a huge success,” chamber CEO Bruce Cosgrove said Monday. “We measure success by the number of nonprofits that got involved and the number of ducks adopted.” Co-sponsor of the race was Protect American River Canyons and 10 other organizations participated. “People got caught up in naming the ducks,” Cosgrove said. “Most of the people named every duck they adopted, which was kind of fun.” He estimates the race raised $9,000, with the nonprofits that sold the ducks getting a share of the net proceeds. Having it on the American River rather than in a man-made channel added to the amusement. “We knew that herding the ducks down the river would be a challenge. But that’s what made it fun,” Cosgrove said. “They had to go through some rapids and some areas that were pools of water that go around in a circle. So they wouldn’t go anywhere for a minute and then move on. There were eddies and rocks that they got wedged between. We had wranglers to keep the ducks moving down the river. What was really great is that quite a few of the people who came actually got into the water and helped keep the ducks moving down the river. … It made it all the more fun for those who showed up and participated.” Among the wranglers were Auburn Recreation District administrator Kahl Muscott and his 7-year-old son. “It was quite entertaining and we had quite a good time,” Muscott said. “I walked into it thinking there’d be a few ducks (that needed help). It was almost all of them because of the wind. There was just enough breeze to push them back across. Where they dumped them was a flat area where the wind was kind of strong. Most ended up pushing on shore so we were feverishly trying to get them back out into the river.” He plans to be out there again next year. “We had a really good time. It was a nice day out there,” he said. “Hopefully next year they’ll sell more ducks and more people will come down.” Cosgrove estimates 80 to 100 people were there to watch the ducks float down the river, a trip that ended up taking about 40 minutes to cover the approximately three-quarters of a mile distance. “We had a fun policy of no ducks left behind,” he said. “Families adopted a duck and wanted to make sure it got to the finish. There was also an environmental aspect. As good stewards of the river, we didn’t want to have any ducks elude us and people find them weeks from now in the river.” Next year he’s hoping for more ducks and a bigger crowd. “We would like to see this event down the road generate 10,000 ducks adopted,” he said. “That is realistic. That happens in other duck derbies. It involves a wide variety of nonprofits all coming together and having fun raising money for their own organization in one singular event.” Organizers will gather for a recap meeting in the next couple of weeks to discuss what worked and areas that need work, and to discuss strategy to “move this to several thousand ducks a year,” Cosgrove said. Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com ----------- Winning entries 1. Grand Prize Winner of the $1,000 was Ducky, Billy Bob, adopted by Jed Matcham. 2. Sierra White Water Rafting trip went to Ducky Sophie, adopted by Jeb Taylor. 3. Goat-packing hike and picnic for 4 went to Ducky Waddle III, adopted by Auburn Service Center. 4. Gift cards to Tango Frozen Yogurt and Local Heroes went to Ducky Sir Fred, adopted by Kathy Kaplan. 5. A gift certificate to Roberta the Hairsmith went to Duck Billy Bob again, adopted by Jed Matcham.