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Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.'s duck race is a proven 'fun'draiser

August 25, 2012|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Sam Harvey, 43, left, of Funkstown, and Dan Stanley, 21, of Hagerstown, gather plastic ducks as they cross the finish line in Antietam Creek on Saturday at the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.'s duck race fundraiser.
By Alicia Notarianni

FUNKSTOWN, Md. — Most racers train.

They adopt a strict workout regimen, monitor nutrition and take pains to stay on top of their mental game.

Not so for the competitors Saturday in the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.’s duck race.

These orange-billed contenders just chilled on the bridge until, at last, they were dumped into the water. Then, they floated with blank-eyed stares down Antietam Creek, occasionally bumping mindlessly into rocks or getting hung up on sticks.

Though they were sponsored for five bucks a pop, they exhibited no sense of urgency or pressure. They are, after all, inanimate. Brainless. Plastic.

Yet one would never know it based on the enthusiasm of the sponsors standing on shore.

“Go!” they shouted. “Watch out for that stick. Come on, baby.”

The duck race, now in its 13th year, has proven to be a solid fundraiser for the company, raising around $4,000 each year, First Vice President Larry Iseminger said.

“We do different things — barbecues, bingo, a community fund drive,” Iseminger said. “But people like this one because it’s fun. They like to come out, eat at the barbecue and watch the race. People like those kinds of community activities.”

The company sent a mailing to area residents about six weeks before the event. Ducks were sold individually or in groups of seven for $25. Sponsors were assigned a number, which was penned in permanent ink on the bottom of a duck.

As the fowl floated about 125 yards from the bridge near the Funkstown American Legion to the finish line directly behind the fire station, firefighters picked them up and shouted out numbers with tongue-in-cheek seriousness.

“Five-oh-three! Four-seventy-six!” they bellowed, as onlookers checked their numbers.

Paige Owens, 17, of Boonsboro, said her grandmother, Irene Owens, buys her a duck each year, but she had never come to watch before.

“I was just interested to see what it looks like,” she said. “I’ve always heard, so I was curious.”

Doug and Debbie Stitely, 50 and 49, of Frederick, Md., attended after hearing of the event from Doug’s brother, company member Richard Horner, 52, of Hagerstown.

“We just thought it would be fun. It’s great to have something different to do on the weekend,” Debbie Stitely said.

Kelly Buckwalter-Daniels sat at creek’s edge with her husband, Craig Daniels, and their sons, Alex, 4, and Joshua, 2. She said it was a perfect family event since Alex loves ducks.

“He has stuffed ducks, all kinds of ducks. I don’t know why he has a duck infatuation, but he does,” Daniels said. “So he was really excited about it.”

The first duck, a blue one, crossed the finish line, clearing the others by about 15 feet. It was followed by a pink one, then a bobbing bevy of birds.

Prizes ranged from $5 gift cards to a $300 cash prize.

Traci Carmical of Hagerstown had a winner, scoring a $50 gift basket. Carmical said she moved from east Tennessee a few years ago, where she used to attend “a much larger-scale” duck race on the Tennessee River.

“This is really exciting. I’m thrilled,” she said.

Suzie Thomas of Funkstown takes her granddaughter, Taniyah, to the race each year.

“For us, it’s not so much to win. It’s to see all the neighbors and because the money goes to the fire hall,” she said.

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