Rotary adding Operation Big Duck to August race this year

30 super-elite quackers to hit Coal Creek

by Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Rotary Club’s iconic rubber duckie race on Coal Creek hits a big milestone this year: 30 years. The ducks started racing Coal Creek in August 1989 and since then the race has generated more than $750,000 for the club. Over the past 10 years the donations have been approximately $50,000 every year—that’s a lot of $10 duckie tickets. The majority of the money goes to local kids in the community for scholarships, and in support of local organizations and events that focus on kids.

To celebrate the three-decade milestone, the Rotary is calling in the big ducks to celebrate.

Operation Big Duck is an effort to raise an extra $15,000 with the help of local businesses. And it is through, literally, big ducks. The Crested Butte Rotary trains approximately 5,000 to 6,000 ducks for the summer race each year and while elite among duck athletes, these ducks are the size of your hand. The Rotary this year is bringing in the crème of the racing duck crop. Thirty 10-inch by 8-inch by 9-inch ducks the size of a volleyball will join the August 4, 2019 race, which is held during the Sunday of Arts Festival weekend at 2 p.m. Given the snowpack, race handicappers expect the course to be super-fast, so size could matter this year.

The beauty of the Big Ducks is that they can be customized to reflect their $500 sponsor. Each of these big elite quackers can be decorated with logos, unique art or specialized racing styling to let people know who has stepped up into the Big Duck category.

Rotary Big Duck chairperson Chris Kopf says Operation Big Duck is meant to be a celebration of the event that has contributed so much to local youth and an opportunity for local business to get their word out. “We wanted to create a fun event that local businesses could participate in and support the kids. The painted and decorated big ducks will be judged in an art contest during Arts Fest Weekend, and all the big ducks will race down Coal Creek prior to the regular duck race. All the Big Duck sponsors will be recognized with a banner and in a full-color ad in the paper.”

A “Paint Your Duck Party” will be hosted by Mountain Colors and they will donate the paint to spruce up your duck. The Big Duck sale will end July 21 or when all 30 of the elite athlete ducks are snatched up by sponsors.

Kopf emphasized that the money raised through the race will go toward kids in the community. The Rotary awarded $20,000 in scholarships again this year. With the growing class sizes it is harder and harder to keep up. Kopf said that when his daughter graduated from Crested Butte Community School in 2012 there were only 18 graduating seniors—now the class sizes at the school are approaching 70 kids. “We work very hard to help as many kids as we can—but in order to help more kids we need to raise more money—and the Big Duck race is a great way for businesses to help,” Kopf said.

In addition to the scholarships the Rotary gives $2,000 for a Service Above Self award that goes to a junior who demonstrates significant contribution in the community. The money also funds dictionaries for third graders, the Rotary Youth Exchange program and many other local projects to help youth.

If you want to hop into Operation Big Duck, touch base with any member of the Crested Butte Rotary or call Kopf at (970) 209-5405.

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