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Even last-place finisher's a winner at Duck Derby

August 09, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The jersey number of a former Washington Bullet and an exceptionally poor showing by Mike Straley's entry combined Sunday to make him a winner of sorts in the 15th annual American Cancer Society Duck Derby.

In a field of approximately 1,800 ducks, Straley's rubber duck finished dead last, making him the winner of the $250 prize in memory of the late Ted Hazel.

"Ted Hazel was on the Duck Derby Committee for years and was a tremendous supporter," said Lon Bender, derby chairman. Hazel, who died of cancer about 11/2 years ago, probably sold more ducks for the annual event than anyone else, Bender said.

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"He always remarked he felt sorry for the last duck that crossed the finish line," Bender said of Hazel. Last year, Hazel's widow began sponsoring the prize for the race's lamest duck.

"I definitely wanted a number with 25 in it because it's my favorite number," said Straley, who picked duck 2025 from a list of available numbers at the Waynesboro, Pa., newspaper for which he is the circulation manager. That was the jersey number of Mitch Kupchak, who played for the Bullets when they won the 1977-78 NBA championship, Straley said.

Straley, of Greencastle, Pa., said it was the first time he entered the derby, which costs $5 per duck.

The winner of the $500 top prize - for coming in first - was Marc Walker of Shippensburg, Pa., according to race results. All told, organizers handed out 29 prizes of cash, products and services.

Bender did not have final results for the amount of money raised, which includes entry fees, and food and souvenir sales.

For many years, the derby was held at Martin's Mill Covered Bridge Park, until last year, when the event moved to the Greencastle Sportsman's Association off Williamson Road in Antrim Township.

It is one of the slowest moving of races as the ducks are dumped from barrels into Conococheague Creek and then float with the current a few hundred yards to the finish line.

"This is just an ideal location," according to Bender, who said the stretch of the Conococheague makes a better racetrack and there is more parking. For many years, he said, the association also has held an archery shoot to benefit the American Cancer Society.

The derby is one of several annual events that benefit patient services and other programs, according to Amy Burrell, the society's staff partner for fund-raising events. Those include Daffodil Days in March, an auction in April, a women's golf tournament in July and four area Relay for Life events.

New this year will be a chicken wing and chili cook-off scheduled for November, according to Burrell. Corporate and individual entrants are being sought for the event, she said.

Last year, the society raised more than $550,000 locally for programs, including prescription drug and transportation services for cancer patients, Burrell said.

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