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Duck race quacks up spectators

The Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. fundraiser raised about $4,000.

The Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. fundraiser raised about $4,000.

August 26, 2007|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

FUNKSTOWN - The swimmers were on their marks. When the starting siren blared, a group of firefighters dumped the competitors from garbage bags off a bridge, sending them rolling and splashing haphazardly into Antietam Creek.

The competitors were small plastic ducks. The event was the annual Duck Race fundraising event for the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.

The fire company sent fliers to residents within its emergency response area prior to Saturday's race. Tickets for ducks cost $5 for one or $25 for seven. Larry Iseminger, vice president of the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co., said the company sold more than 1,400 tickets and raised about $4,000.

Iseminger said people seem to support the event, in part, because it amuses them.

"Lots of things you do to raise money aren't fun, but this is fun," he said.

The ducks entered Antietam Creek at the Frederick Street bridge in Funkstown, and floated about 200 yards downstream beneath the Baltimore Street bridge toward the black and white flagged finish line.

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Carlen Loy said she and her husband, Gary, had supported the event by purchasing tickets three times, but Saturday was their first time attending the race.

"This is great," said Carlen Loy, 50, of Hagerstown. "It's a gas. It's really a hoot."

The wide-eyed ducks looked bemused as they drifted along at a moderate pace on the dingy water. Spectators gathered along the riverbanks behind the fire station, shouting and cheering on the plastic figures. Some chanted their ducks' numbers, rooting them down the creek.

Joel Knight, 50, of Hagerstown, sat on a rock shaded by trees at the creek's edge with his son Quintin, 8.

"Come on, duckies!" Joel Knight shouted.

Purple duck No. 1131 and pink duck No. 1121 pulled out way ahead of the other fowl and jettisoned toward the finish line. The purple duck ultimately prevailed with inches to spare, bringing home the $300 first prize for ticket holder Terry Gearhart.

Meanwhile, the remaining masses of ducks wobbled along in clusters causing a commotion. About a dozen fire company volunteers stood along the finish line in the water bellowing winning numbers to Iseminger, who was recording them on shore.

Ticket holders for the first 36 ducks to cross the finish line won prizes.

A couple of sombrero-clad firemen followed the racers down the creek in a canoe.

"The ducks tend to get hung up on debris, so they are there to keep the ducks moving," company member Jeb Eckstine said.

Ironically, Eckstine said, every year the canoe seems to get stuck. This year was no different. The firemen evacuated and dislodged the canoe before good-humouredly dragging it from the water a few yards above the finish line.

Deputy fire chief Dave Fraley said company members enjoy working together on the event.

"It's fun for everyone," Fraley said. "We all have fun getting in the creek and the community enjoys it."

Fraley said each year brings new challenges in fire fighting and emergency response, such as advanced technologies and new hazardous materials. He said proceeds from the duck race would be used to purchase gear to help the company keep up with those changes.

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