Rotary duck race continues building tradition


The Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra held its annual Rubber Duck Race, which serves as the community organization’s largest fundraiser each year and the result was 3,000 rubber ducks being dumped from a front loaded from the Palm Valley Bridge into the Intracoastal Waterway.

Money raised from this year’s event went toward four beneficiaries, which included the Rotary Club Foundation, Learn to Read St. Johns, Bit of Faith Ranch in Ponte Vedra and Port in the Storm in St. Augustine.

“The duck race has been going on for close to a decade now, but the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra took things over about five years,” said Gary Smith, who served as chairperson of this year’s duck race. “We raise about $20,000 to $25,000 annually.”

According to Smith, the duck race had run in the lazy river at Nocatee Splash Park, but this year marked the third since making the venue change and dropping the ducks off the Palm Valley Bridge and into the Intracoastal Waterway.

“We figured it would be a much more exciting way to go about it, but it also takes a lot to put this thing together, with a lot of people helping out along the way,” Smith said. “It takes a lot of people from out Rotary Club to help out. We started planning this event back in October.”

Due to the continued growth of the event, Smith and the Rotary Club already has their focus set on reaching a minimum of $50,000 raised next year.

“This is the premier event for our Rotary Club and it’s only going to get bigger and bigger,” Smith said. “There are a lot of duck race drops throughout the country that are huge and we’re aspiring to be there, because we want to raise as much money as we can for all these good causes.”

Another way the event gives back is not only through the money it raises from selling rubber ducks, but also by coordinating with Ponte Vedra High School’s National Honor Society students, who help in the efforts to sell ducks and get the word out in the months leading up.

“They raised thousands of dollars this year in duck sales,” ,” Bob Wiltfong, Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra president, said. “Every time we checked the sales, there was always at least $35 from a Ponte Vedra High School supporter, so they did phenomenal this year and we couldn’t have done it without them and the next generation getting on board.”

The event looks from the outside like a large-scale production, but there is even more behinds the scenes that goes in to making it a fun event for the entire family.

“That is a huge element, but we also had to get all the permitting and permissions to do this,” Wiltfong said. “You even have to measure tides to make sure the tide is going the right way,” Wiltfong said. “It’s quite the undertaking, but totally worth it.”

The top prize to the winning duck once again this year was two roundtrip tickets by Southwest Airlines to any location in the United States.

No rubber ducks were left behind as a swarm of kayakers and boaters circled to corral each of the ducks from the water at the end of the event.


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