With a drop from a giant bucket, thousands of little yellow rubber ducks are ceremoniously dropped into Fall River at Nicky’s Resort where they begin their journey to a festival at Riverside Plaza in downtown Estes Park. The ducks are scooped out of the water one-by-one by waiting volunteers. It’s all part of the benefit Estes Park Duck Race.
The 2016 Duck Race Festival, May 7, offers expanded activities in Bond Park and George Hix Riverside Plaza, the Duck Waddle 5K and a scavenger hunt hosted by local businesses. From beer to pancakes, and interactive games for the kids to live music, the festival promises fun for all ages, according to 2016’s “Big Duck” Rene Moquin.
Like any other long-standing event, the all-volunteer Duck Race Committee “took a step back” last year and asked if they needed to make some changes to keep the event viable, Moquin explained. As a result, several changes were made for this year’s race. “First we increased the value and diversity of the grand prizes. We have three grand prizes valued at $6,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively. We intend to secure over 600 merchant prizes with a minimum value of $20. We increased the number of $500 and $100 sponsors. These sponsors help underwrite the cost of this event,” Moquin said. “We have invited some new beneficiary organizations to join the event. We are increasing our social media efforts so folks outside of Estes Park know and join our day of fun on May 7. Hopefully, they also buy adoption forms.”
The board also decided to increase the number of events on May 7 in Bond Park to make it a day-long festival. On race day Bond Park will feature family fun, music, activities and more. Stop by the “Outdoor Theater” and watch a free showing of the Rocky Mountain National Park Centennial Film, Wildlife, Wilderness & Wonder. The 20-minute short film will be shown all day. Other new events include the scavenger hunt and 5K race, a beer garden, a pancake breakfast, interactive games for children, bounce house, photo booth, live entertainment on stage and several food vendors. And, of course, the main event will be the duck race itself.
Reestablishing “collaborative relationships” with several entities including the Lodging Association, the downtown businesses, partner organizations and the Running Club is also a new priority.
Major prizes will inspire travel to exciting destinations this year. A $20 duck adoption will mean a chance at winning a trip to New Orleans, San Francisco or Las Vegas for two for third place. The four-day and three-night package is worth up to $2,000. Second place earns the adoptee a trip to Disneyland in California or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for two. The four-day and three-night package is worth up to $3,000. The Disneyland option includes three-day park hopper passes and hotel. The Puerto Vallarta trip includes accommodations at a beachfront, four-star all-inclusive resort.
The Grand Prize trip is to the Emerald Isle for two, worth up to $6,000. The seven-day and six-night Ireland package includes sightseeing, hotels and some meals. All of the major prizes include airfare from Denver and round-trip transportation to hotels. Columbine Travel in Estes Park is arranging the vacation prizes.
Offering travel prizes adds to the general excitement surrounding the race, according to Duck Race Committee Member Scott Thompson. “We heard so many positive comments about last year’s prizes, we decided to offer some new options for 2016,” he said.
The major travel prizes are just the tip of the iceberg. Due to the generosity of major sponsors and local area merchants, there are prizes for 100s of entries.
Ever since being named “Big Duck” last year, Moquin says he likes to remind himself what the annual Duck Race—the oldest and largest annual fund raising event in town—is really all about. The numbers are impressive. The race has raised over $2.2 million for local charities and groups since 1989. Last year’s race netted $111,000 for Estes Valley beneficiaries. Selling adoption forms may be the end game, but the ability of participating organizations to have the resources to serve the Estes Park community is ultimately the goal.
“Because of our efforts the arts will prosper in our community, low cost housing can be provided, children from single parent families will get a head start with affordable preschool, at risk children in this community will have partners who can show them the way, seniors can rely on meals on wheels and companionship, and folks in the last days of their lives can rest peacefully in a hospice program,” he said.
As an added attraction during the Duck Race Festival weekend, merchants in downtown Estes Park will set up tables outside their businesses for the annual spring sidewalk sale Saturday and Sunday. Great deals are easy to find.
Everything adds up to a wonderful experience according to Moquin. “Estes Park is a dream vacation destination that nestles against Rocky Mountain National Park. Recreational opportunities abound. Activities and festivals are offered every season, year round. The Estes Valley boasts abundant wildlife including majestic elk, mule deer, bobcats, bears, marmot, foxes and mountain lions.” he said.
Festivities get underway at Nicky’s Resort at 11 a.m. on race day. Ducks go into the water at 1 p.m. and activities continue in Riverside Plaza until the last duck swims past the finish line. Festival activities in Bond Park and Riverside Plaza take place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
The process is simple to participate. Simply adopt a duck or a flock of ducks for a fee of $20 each, or $21 for each online adoption, and $19 of what is donated will benefit one of the 64 charitable organizations selected at the time of adoption. The more duck adoptions sold by the individual charities, the more money they can raise.
The 2016 Estes Park Rotary Duck Race will keep visitors entertained from early morning until late afternoon in so many places that it will be impossible to miss the fun. Most events are free of charge. Here’s a recap of the entertainers and activities in Estes Park on Saturday, May 7.
8 – 10 a.m. Pancake Breakfast sponsored Longs Peak Rotary Foundation and Kiwanis Club. Pancakes, sausage, juice or coffee for $5 per person.
9 a.m. Duck Waddle 5K foot race departs from Bond Park and follows a route that features views of the Fall River and Rocky Mountain National Park, finishing at Bond Park. Register online at epmarathon.org. Cost $25/adult and $23/seniors includes a duck adoption; $23/youth. All registrants get a race shirt. Fee increases by $5 after May 2.
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Beer garden, food vendors, photo booth, live music, and interactive games sponsored by 15 Duck Race charities
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Shake Your Tail Feather Music
10 a.m. Steve Smersh
11 a.m. Will Thomas
12 p.m. Ran Off the Rooster
1 p.m. Brad Fitch
2 p.m. Bayou Folk
10 a.m. Duck Hunt. Pick up a game page at Bond Park, visit 20 listed businesses, find the hidden duck at each and collect a sticker. Return the game page by 2 p.m. to Bond Park for a prize drawing. Sponsor: Downtown Business Partners.
10 a.m. – noon. Duck cartoons showing at the Reel Mountain Theater. Give your feet a break and quack up with cartoons!
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Retail sales of duck-themed treasures
11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. music by Riverside Ramblers
11 a.m. Duck Squat raffle sponsored by the Estes Park Rotary Foundation
11:30 a.m. Lucky, the Duck Race mascot, arrives in the famous yellow Jeep
12 p.m. Estes Park Singers
12:30 p.m. Duck adoption sales close at Nicky’s
1 p.m. ducks drop into the Fall River to begin their race
George Hix Riverside Plaza
11 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Highland Brass Quintet
1 – 2:45 p.m. Great Blue
1 – 3 p.m. Sales of fabulous duck-themed treasures
1 p.m. Duck Squat raffle sponsored by the Estes Park Rotary Foundation
3- 5 p.m. Ran Off the Rooster
12-4 p.m. Face Painting
1-4 p.m. Balloon artist, Caricature artist, Estes Park Band Boosters
1-2:30 p.m. Special appearance by Bruiser the Big Dog
When the ducks waddle in, prizes will be listed on large boards outside The Wheel Bar.
Adopt ducks on Race Day 10 a. m. – noon at: Bond Park, Visitor Center, Macdonald Bookshop, Inkwell and Brew. Sales at Nicky’s close at 12:30 p.m.
9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Town of Estes Park will provide shuttle service to/from several locations, including Nicky’s for the start of the race. Go to
https://www.colorado.gov/townofestespark/shuttles for the schedule.
Bond Park is located at 251 E. Elkhorn Ave. in Estes Park, Nicky’s Resort is located at 1350 Fall River Road and Riverside Plaza is downtown on the river walk. Get a duck online and find more details at EPDuckRace.org.
Originally published in the April 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly