Clarification: 8,831 duck sponsorships were sold this year, doubling last year's total of 4,400.
Those who have attended local events over the course of the past year may recognize Quacky, Bradenton’s most popular duckling. Bright yellow and standing over 6 feet tall, the sunglass-clad, larger-than-life ducky is hard to miss.
She participated in the Hernando DeSoto Society’s and . She was in the Anna Maria Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade. She celebrated Marty the Marauder’s birthday with him at McKechnie Field and threw the first pitch at a Marauders game as well as a Pirates spring training game. She went on the air with 106.5 CTQ. She has made appearances at , , Duffy’s Tavern, and .
Quacky has certainly made her way around town, where she’s been on a mission to promote Saturday's second annual Lucky Ducky Race for PACE, a wacky, quacky fundraising event that benefits .
The concept behind the event is simple and a little bit silly, but a lot of fun. For the second year in a row, Bradenton residents were given the opportunity to “adopt” a ducky to take part in the race.
One “Lonely Duck” could be adopted for the price of a $5 donation to PACE. A “Quack Pack” of five ducks cost $20, and a “Flock of 30” sold for $100. Each duck was then tagged with the name of the individual or team that adopted it.
“We kept the adoption fee low so that anyone could take part in it,” said PACE Special Projects Manager Christi Haley, who coordinated the event.
“The $5 fee isn’t going to break anyone’s bank, and it seemed like a good way to give the entire community a chance to participate.”
Adoption certificates were available for purchase at Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Demetrios’ Pizza House, Lifestyle Family Fitness, and Shapes.
Anna Maria Oyster Bar and Demetrios’ even offered incentives for rubber ducky adoption. The Oyster Bar gave away a free well drink to everyone who adopted a ducky, while Demetrios’ gave out free orders of cheesy bread.
Publix Supermarket, the event’s biggest sponsor, offered the biggest incentive to participate: A $5,000 gift card to the individual or team who adopted the winning ducky.
Haley recommended that individuals or teams adopt Quack Packs and flocks.
“Single ducks are lonely and tend not to swim very quickly,” she said on Friday. “That’s why Quacky has been encouraging everyone to adopt them in flocks — those guys are a lot more motivated to race to the finish line.”
On the day of the race, the 10,000 tagged and weighted rubber duckies were dumped in the Manatee River at the , where they floated along with the current. At the end of the “race," the duckies funneled one at a time into a trough. The first rubber ducky to reach the trough was deemed the winner. This year, Rick Papinecu adopted the lucky ducky that won the race.
“It really is a very silly event,” Haley confessed. “The idea behind it is that we can get the entire community involved, though.”
PACE partnered with the Hernando DeSoto Historical Society for the fundraiser. The society built a container for the ducks and provided boats for the event. It also allowed PACE to use the tents set up for the DeSoto Fishing Tournament, which also took place this weekend.
This year, in addition to the Lucky Ducky Race, PACE also hosted the Ducks in Paradise “Ducktail Party” and “Corporate Quacky” on Friday evening.
For $300, local corporations were given the opportunity to decorate their own large rubber ducky to enter in the “Best Dressed Duck” contest at the party. Financial firm Morgan Stanley decorated the duck that came in first. Williams Wealth Management Group and Duncan Real Estate placed in the contest as well.
Last year, the organization sold more than 4,400 duck sponsorships. This year, that total was doubled, with final count of 8,831 ducks sold. Haley said she is hopeful that in the next few years, PACE can raise up to $20,000 through the Lucky Ducky Races.
“We’re hoping in the future that this becomes a signature Manatee County event,” said Haley. “Eventually, we want to flood downtown Bradenton with ducks.”
Haley credits Quacky’s heightened community exposure, as well as the additional events that led up to the Lucky Ducky Race, to the great success of this year’s fundraising efforts.
“This year we put a lot more effort into getting Quacky out there and just getting her noticed,” she said.
“We’ve really been trying to make PACE more visible and promote a positive image – and who doesn’t love a giant rubber duck in black sunglasses?”
Dennis Tichio, the President of the Board for PACE, was the leader of “Shake Your Tail Feather,” the team that sold the most ducks this year. Tichio’s team sold a total of 696 ducks — a tremendous spike from the 250 ducks it sold last year.
“The event really picked up momentum this year,” said Tichio. “People remembered last year’s event, Quacky was much more recognizable, and I think that the improved economy helped as well.”
Phyllis Bernarding, whose husband is also on the Board of Directors and volunteers as a reading tutor at PACE, said that she was proud to take part in an event hosted by an organization that she believes to be greatly beneficial to the community.
“We really just think that it’s such a wonderful school for this community,” Bernarding said. “The girls at PACE benefit tremendously from the education they receive there, and every single dollar that is raised goes directly into that.”
Amy Wick-Mavis, executive eirector at PACE, said that she was pleased by the magnitude of community involvement and the turnout for Saturday’s event.
“It’s fantastic to see all the people who came out to support PACE one duck at a time and one girl at a time. This community has really embraced us, and it’s really amazing.”
After the race was over, PACE staff and volunteers teamed up to collect all the ducks from the river and place them in blue bins for next year.
“Now that it’s all over, we have all our ducks in a row — and to be perfectly honest, we’re a little quacked out for the time being,” said Haley.
“But give us about three months, and you can rest assured Quacky will be out there again, getting Bradenton ready for next year’s Lucky Ducky Race.”