DENVILLE, NJ -- Ducks invaded Denville Township on Saturday, June 15 -- rubber duckies, that is. Hundreds of residents from Denville and neighboring towns gathered at Gardner Field for the Great Denville Duck Race.
The Duck Race is an annual community event organized by the Sunrise Rotary Club of Denville Township. Rotary Club is an international volunteer charitable organization that has been around for more than 100 years, is located in 200 countries and has more than 1.2 million members who are dedicated to projects that help raise funds for many charities.
“I love this duck race every year,” said Denville resident and rotary member Andy Smith.
“It’s hometown America and is one of the things that makes Denville so special.”
The Duck Race has been a Denville tradition at Gardner Field for the past 22 years. Initially started by the Denville Parks and Recreation Department, in 2010, after a one-to-two-year hiatus, the Sunrise Rotary Club took the reins and has ensured the duckies return every summer for the families of Denville and beyond.
“Weather has been perfect, and this may be the best turnout ever with as [many] as 400 to 500 people here,” said Denville resident and rotary co-president Jim LaSala, who has been with the club for 14 years.
“This is a Denville tradition that is unique to us, and it becomes a thrill to see how imaginative the kids are with their duckies.”
The Rotary Club set up an arts and crafts station at Gardner Field where kids could decorate their rubber ducks to distinguish them in the flock. Eventually, while the morning remained young, race facilitators placed the rubber ducks in the loader bucket, and then dumped them into the Rockaway River from the bridge on Savage Road. Crowds cheered as the current carried the duckies to the finish line downstream.
“I’m loving the Duck Race,” said Rob Murray, who came as far as New York City to attend the Denville event with family.
“It’s the talk of the town. Everywhere you drive in Denville, you will see all these duck-shaped signs! Here, I like the community togetherness. Denville is a really beautiful town.”
The kids themselves shared similar sentiments.
“The Duck Race is fun, and I love it, especially if I win,” said five-year-old Christopher Barchetto, from Rockaway Township.
Christopher’s 11-year-old sister Madelyn felt the same way.
“The Duck Race is great for the weekend in Denville,” said Madelyn, who has attended the event with friends and relatives for the past six years.
“And it’s not just a race. There are a lot of other activities to have fun here!”
The other activities included free snack stands, 50/50 raffle, music, face painting, tattoos, a juggler and a bagpipe performance.
Once the rubber duckies reached the finish line, young participants won a variety of prizes like toys, board games, beach towels and buckets (just in time for summer), chalk and gift certificates.
Two-year-old Louisa Heerschap of Denville received a gift certificate to Power Play Gaming arcade in Denville when her ducky placed among the first three undecorated ducks to cross the finish line.
“The Denville Duck Race has been a family tradition for us since Louisa was born,” said Antonella Heerschap, Louisa’s mother.
The Sunrise Rotary Club raised $13,000 from this year's race. The funds will go to local charities, such as Denville Social Services, and toward scholarships for township students.
For more information about the Sunrise Rotary Club of Denville Township, visit http://www.sunriserotaryclubofdenville.com/, or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DenvilleSunriseRotaryClub/.
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