Duck, Duck Derby

It’s for the whole family. It raises money for a cause while spotlighting several nonprofits organizations in the area. And did we mention that it’s free?

Mark your calendar on Saturday, May 5, for the second annual Bryant Rubber Ducky Derby Festival. Hosted by the Bryant Rotary Club, the event takes place at Mills Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A portion of the proceeds benefits Bryant Kids Closet, an initiative established by the club 10 years ago that has steadily grown each year.

David Hannah with the Rotary Club says that Kids Closet has been funded in the past through small fundraisers, but a few years ago the club decided to establish a signature event to raise the majority of funds needed to run the Closet.

The Club’s focus is on helping kids in need inside of Saline County and beyond. Through the Kids Closet, Rotary provides clothing, shoes, socks, underwear, coats, toiletries and other items to children in need.

“We help over 500 kids a year through referrals from schools, Boys and Girls clubs, churches, other nonprofits, police and fire departments and more,” Hannah says. “The need keeps growing every year, and we strive to keep up with the demand for assistance.”

Proceeds from the event also benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Bryant and Imagination Library of Saline County. Since its focus is on helping children, Rotary Club keeps the Duck Derby and festival free for families.

New to this year’s event will be a 5K, food court and a Ninja Warrior-type attraction (with the help of Empire Cheer). “We’ll have a few other surprises that you’ll just have to come out and see for yourself,” Hannah says.

What exactly is a duck derby, you might be wondering? Hannah explains the rules.

“We have 5,000 individually numbered rubber ducks. They are ‘adopted’ for $5 each. On the day of the derby, we build a manmade river in Mills Park with a holding tank at the top and a catch at the bottom. The ducks are stirred in the holding tank and then released into the river to race to the end.

“Festivalgoers line the edges of the river and cheer on their ducks. At the end of the river, there is a catch that will capture the top ten to fifteen ducks in the order they finish. We have ten prizes that are awarded on the stage to the winning ducks after the race. The people who adopted that numbered duck will win the corresponding prize. We even added a last place prize this year for fun. Five thousand ducks racing down the river with crowds cheering them on is a pretty cool thing to watch.”

The festival also features carnival-style games that are run by local nonprofits. “They run the games in our Game Zone at no charge, to help them get exposure for their causes,” Hannah says.

Sponsorships fund the festival, and when it is over, all proceeds not spent on the festival will be donated to the same three organizations, Hannah notes. “We hope everyone will benefit from attending the free festival and having a great time with their family at an event that still has that small ‘hometown feel.’ We want the nonprofits to benefit from their involvement by increasing their exposure in the community.”

When all ducks are adopted, Hannah says $25,000 will be raised. “We hope to add to that from the sponsorships that we are able to acquire for the festival, and maybe match that number at some point and beyond.”

In addition to attending the festival, people can do their part by adopting a duck and spreading the word. “I also hope that someone who comes to enjoy the festival will find an organization that speaks to them, and they will make the decision to get involved,” Hannah says.

Bryant Rotary facilitates many community events throughout the year, such as the CASA Chili Cook-off and Junior Auxiliary Kickin’ For Kids Kickball Tournament.

The club also offers scholarships, sends students to Rotary Youth Leadership Awards for leadership training, and volunteers with the Toy Troopers at Christmas time. “The Bryant Rotary family is a great group of industry and community leaders that come together because we know we can make a bigger difference with our combined effort, and we have fun doing it,” Hannah says.