For great things to happen, all it takes, apparently, is a man with a plan. In this case, the man is Dan. Dan Waldinger, head of the Mahomet Parks and Recreation Department. A true visionary, Dan had a vision, a dream perhaps, of greatness, of an event so spectacular all of Mahomet would come together for this grand event. Yes, Dan had a grand vision: of rubber duckies.
Hey, there are grand visions, and there are grand visions.
So Dan envisioned a duck race. First, he needed the cooperation of a bold group of adventurers who were up to the challenging task of duck-herding on the Sangamon River. So he turned to the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy. Naturally, the USRC was excited that the Sangamon River would actually play a role in this year’s Sangamon River Music Festival, and they were honored to help Dan out.
Planning began in February. So much to do: the where, the how, the rubber ducks. Dan’s vision saw the ducks emerging from some high promontory to light upon the river as an auspicious beginning. But being Central Illinois, the nearest high promontory was Mahomet’s old iron pedestrian bridge. So that’s where we should start, thought Dan.
Then, the ducks. Since Dan envisioned an annual race lasting many years into the future, Dan sought to purchase the best, highest quality, fastest and downright cutest darn racing ducks he could find. It wasn’t easy and many ducks simply weren’t up to the high standards required.
Then in June, a group of grown, somewhat sane men performed the first on-location simulated duck race with various test ducks. This included dropping rubber ducks from the Iron Bridge into the river. Unfortunately, the ducks performed rather poorly. All fell over on their sides and were, sadly, unable to recover unassisted. But the ducks did valiantly cruise down the river and the run took just a few minutes.
Soon after that, the Village received the Official Racing Ducks. Who could resist their adorable, wide open blue eyes and those long eyelashes looking perpetually upward, and most importantly, their weighted bottoms? A few sink-based trials empirically determined that indeed no matter what angle of attack they went into the water, they automatically sat back up straight and tall, smiling and batting those long eyelashes. Unfortunately, in land-based testing, I easily thumped a duck over on Chuck’s coffee table, and it was, sadly, unable to recover. But that’s beside the point, I suppose.
Now all that was needed was a finish line. So Jon the eveready USRC engineer constructed a wooden rubber duckie funnel to determine the winner. Later in July, four somewhat sane grown men gathered in ankle deep water on the Sangamon River to play with Jon’s wooden funnel, their new rubber duckies and an amazing array of technicolor floating noodles. After serious discussions and intense thought, including noodle color coordination (hey, that’s not easy for a bunch of tough guys), construction work began. This consisted of threading a red rope through the Technicolor noodles and connecting it to Jon the engineer’s funnel. Then, Chuck (aka, “the Duck-Chucker”) chucked the ducks in the river upstream, and those cute little duckies sat straight up and dutifully rushed downstream and then lined up perfectly right into Jon’s funnel just like they were supposed to! The somewhat sane grown men had succeeded! Oh, happy day!
Next up is a full dress rehearsal at a secret, undisclosed time and location on the “Sangamon River” near an iron bridge on a Saturday morning in August two weeks before Riverfest. Sorry, I’m not permitted to disclose any more at this time.
So Dan’s vision will finally reach fruition on Saturday of Riverfest at 4:00 pm. We encourage all of Mahomet and the peoples of the surrounding area to sponsor your cute-as-a-button Sangamon River racing duckie today. They are five bucks a duck and sponsorships can be purchased online at www.mahometrecreation.com. Or several somewhat sane grown men (and women) will be selling duckies at the Mahomet IGA over the next couple of Saturday mornings.
And as a special favor from the man with the plan, Dan has promised me that if you act now, and mention that you saw his name in this column, he’ll offer you the limited time special offer rate of four ducks for only twenty bucks! Hurry! Don’t miss out!
This column appeared as “Notes from the River” Mahomet Citizen, August 10, 2011