The plastic duck race is on

August 09, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

FUNKSTOWN - Larry Iseminger learned a valuable lesson about markers, not ducks, a few years ago when he was coordinating the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.'s biennial duck race down Antietam Creek.

"When you write those numbers on the bottoms of those plastic ducks, you'd better make sure you're using a permanent marker," Iseminger said recently as he was getting ready for this year's race, which will be Saturday, Aug. 27.

One year, Funkstown volunteer member Rick Conrad was stationed downstream where the ducks crossed the finish line and he quickly learned that the first few ducks that came through had no numbers on them.


"Fortunately, I always use three or four different markers every year and only one wasn't a permanent marker," Iseminger said.

President of the fire company, Iseminger said the last duck race, which was in 2003, raised more than $5,000. The race has become a significant money source for the organization.

"We do the duck race on the odd years," Iseminger said. On the even years, the volunteers spend their time updating their assessment of the coverage area they serve. This year's race will be the sixth.

The idea came from Mike Henry, who lived in western Pennsylvania.

"One of his ideas was a duck race while the other was a kiss the pig contest. We never had enough courage to go with that one," Iseminger said.

A mailing went out to everyone in Funkstown's first due area in late July. They were informed of the particulars of the race as well as the fact that the monthly barbecue will be the day of the race, beginning at 9 a.m.

"That's our biggest expense," Iseminger said, noting the mailing costs $475. Slips at the bottom can be returned with the purchase of one duck for $5 or seven ducks for $25.

The fire company pays the cash prizes, including the $300 for the first duck to cross the finish line. At least 25 prizes will be awarded for the first 25 ducks to cross.

A $300 meat package raffle will be held on race day with tickets available for a $1 donation. The package will include steaks, roasts, ground beef, chicken, etc. Tickets for that raffle also were in the mailing.

Over the years, a lot has been learned about how to operate such an event, Iseminger said.

"The first year, we didn't capture the ducks at all after the race," Iseminger said.

While more ducks are ordered for each new race, the ones that were caught are reused.

The race begins at 2 p.m. at the Antietam Creek bridge at Alt. U.S. 40 and ends behind the fire hall.

In 2003, there were 1,830 ducks in the race. Several hundred are lost each year even though nets are strung across the creek to capture most of them.

"If the creek is low, the race takes forever," Iseminger said. If the water is high, the race can go too fast.

For that reason, there is always a boat in the creek to spread the ducks out and keep them from bunching up and getting tangled along the banks.

"The worst thing that can happen is if a whole bunch of ducks cross the finish line at the same time," he said.

For more information on the race, call 301-790-0090.

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