Annual rubber duck race makes a splash in Kenai
On Saturday, a handful of spectators gathered at Cunningham Park to watch nearly 900 rubber ducks float down the Kenai River. Released upstream at a nearby boat launch, the annual fundraiser, hosted by the Kenai Lions Club, helps pay for supplies and resources that aid in the organization’s mission.
Founded in 1966, the Kenai Lions Club serves the Kenai Peninsula by providing vision screenings to the disadvantaged, funding for the breakfast program at Kenai Alternative School, and organizing fundraisers for local families, among other initiatives.
Members of the community were given the opportunity to purchase a rubber duck for $20 each. The first-place winner took home $6,000, while the ten that trailed behind took home $100 each.
“It’s a fun way of doing a raffle,” said Dennis Swarner, project chairman of the Kenai Lions Club Rubber Duck Race. “Instead of reaching into a basket and pulling out a number, we reach into the river and pull out a duck.”
Inspired by an annual rubber duck race that occurs in Fairbanks, Swarner was instrumental in bringing the first rubber duck race to Kenai in 1992.
“The money we raise from this just goes back into the community,” Swarner said.
During the first race of the day, a few dozen rubber ducks sponsored by local businesses faced off. Generally, the first race is to test the river’s current.
After slight delays due to a pod of beluga whales at the boat launch, the 900 rubber ducks are released and aimed for the finish line. Two boats observe the ducks to declare a winner.
“Raising money can be fun, getting together with people and getting together as a community to reach out and help our [friends] is a joy,” said Sabrina McGraw, President of the Kenai Lions Club. “It feels good to give back and help people out.”
“I think it’s a wonderful fundraiser for our community,” said Heather Rash, Vice President of the Kenai Lions Club. “It’s just super fun because everybody loves ducks, everybody likes to get involved, people get excited about actually racing physical ducks down the river rather than just drawing tickets. At the middle school, we did an event and handed out duckies to the kids, so people just get excited about it.”
Although its membership number is small, the organization has made a profound impact throughout the Kenai Peninsula. They plan to continue this annual event in the future.
“The future of this event, what I hope, is that it brings the community together,” McGraw said. “They see what the Kenai Lions Club does, and they want to come in and join us, share ideas and be together to see how we can serve more people. The more membership and active members we have, the more we can do.”
The annual rubber duck race raised about $9,000 in total for the club.
If you or someone you know is in need, contact the Kenai Lions Club on Facebook or via letter at PO Box 218, Kenai, AK.