A Duck Race Q and A!

It’s hard to believe it’s once again the time of year plagued by intense struggle and strife, the constant jockeying for position, the arguments, the endless name-calling while accusations fly.

Presidential campaign season, you ask? Olympics maybe?


I’m talking about the intense competition of the 6th Annual Sangamon River Duck Race.

And we here at Notes from the River (NFTR) recently discovered that it’s been 6 years since we’ve bothered to respond to readers’ duck race questions from the ol’ NFTR mailbag!

So this week, we reach down into the dregs to answer those pressing, yet lingering, unanswered questions submitted by legions of NFTR readers, such as: “the duck what?”

Q: I’ve never heard of this duck race before, just what is it?

NFTR: Obviously this question is from down deep in the mailbag, having been submitted way back in the first year before many people were aware of it.

Q:  No, actually I just submitted that one last week.

NFTR: Oh, I see, well it’s when 600 ducks from across Central Illinois fly in to the Sangamon River in Mahomet to compete in the hottest duck racing event of the season (since it’s in August). Local residents place their $5 bets on the winner by sponsoring any number of cute little yellow ducks with bright red lips.

Q: I’ve never put money on a duck race before. Would you recommend betting the daily double, the quinella, or the trifecta?

NFTR: You can certainly pick any number of winners. But to really increase your odds, we here at NFTR recommend you bet the “quintupla” where you pick all five top 5 winners and you win ALL 5 TOP PRIZES! Not only that, but we’ve heard rumors that for a limited time, you can bet the five duck “quintupla box” for the bargain price of 25 bucks! And by the way, please don’t share this with other readers, but NFTR just received an exclusive readers-only “hot tip” that you should go with the yellow one with the bright red lips.

Q: I hear that ducks begin the river race by flying gracefully down from the bicycle bridge over the Sangamon River just south of downtown. So, what keeps the ducks from flying away?

NFTR: The professional staff at Mahomet Parks and Rec works night and day in advance of the race carefully and professionally grooming each individual duck, trimming their wings in a harm-free manner so that they safely engage in their carefully choreographed pirouette off the bridge without flying away. That’s what they told us, anyway.

Q: Was that oversize huge duck spotted in the Riverfest parade last year raised too close to a nuclear facility or what?

A: No, actually he was born on an alien planet and rocketed to Earth in a flying egg by his scientist father moments before his home planet’s destruction. He was raised by farmers near Seymour. Prior to his parade gig, he held a job as a mild-mannered reporter named Jimmy for the Mahomet Citizen.

Q: What do all of those ducks do during the off season? Where do they go?

NFTR: Mahomet Parks and Rec relies on only the finest organically raised “free range” ducks for their racing stock. During the off season, they’re out roaming freely across the seemingly endless miles of golden prairie amidst purple mountains majesty. At least that’s what Parks and Rec staff said they do.

Q: Really? That’s very nice. Then why have I heard that Parks and Rec just dumps them from a big plastic garbage can from the bridge at the beginning and then tosses them back in those same garbage cans at the end and stores them ‘til next year closed up in a garage at Parks and Rec HQ?

NFTR: Yet another example of the vicious rumors perpetuated by the “mainstream media”. If you want to stick with the unvarnished truth, just stick with “Notes from the River.”

Q: I see that duck race staff at the USRC have been sponsoring competitors in the race. Isn’t this a conflict of interest? I mean, how do we know they’re not rigging the race?

A: Well, for one, Scott Hays, a key member of the duck race staff, has played each of the past six years and is actually pretty freakin’ upset that he has yet to win a single prize. So if he’s attempting to rig the race, he’s certainly not very good at it.

Q: Mathematically speaking, what are my odds of winning that fabulous $500 first prize if you sold all 600 ducks?

NFTR: Mathematically, that would be expressed as: (the square root of 58.2169 – 7.63) + ((pi + 3.167) * 0) – ((1/7 * 7)-1).

Q: (hours later…) Hey, isn’t that, like, 0?

NFTR: Yep, which would be your chances since you said we’d already sold all the ducks. Guess you shoulda got in the game a little sooner, chump. Buy early!

Q: Somehow, the USRC manages to get all these middle-aged dudes (and even a few women) to volunteer to come out and splash around with a bunch of rubber duckies in the Sangamon River. Be honest, don’t you feel a little ridiculous? What the heck do you get out of it?

NFTR: We feel the satisfaction of a race well-run. We take our rubber duckies very seriously. Oh yeah, that and half the proceeds go straight into our kitty. The other half we generously share with Mahomet Parks and Rec to support the great care and feeding they provide for our valuable racing ducks during the off-season. At least that’s what they said.

Q: I have one more question about placing my bet on the duck race. If I bet my money on de bob-tail nag, will somebody bet on de bay?

NFTR: Oh-dee-do-dah-day.

And with that informative response, it’s time to bring our reader Q and A session to a close. We hope that you’ll be inspired to place your $5 bet on ducks for you and for all of your extended family members!

And since your generous donations supports the USRC and Mahomet Parks and Rec which puts all of your money right back into your community, your donation makes you already a winner!

And remember, this fall after the race, be sure to keep an eye out among those golden prairies for those free-ranging bright yellow ducks with pretty red lips. Mahomet Parks and Rec swears they’re out there.

Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, August 18, 2016, by Scott Hays

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