ROCKINGHAM — One lucky duck out of 5,000 will bob its way down Hitchcock Creek on Sunday, winning its “foster” sponsor a grand prize for supporting the children of the Sandhills Center.
The event will mark a full handful of Duck Derbies, during which 5,000 yellow rubber ducks boasting orange beaks and cool shades are dumped into the creek, then must make their way past ensnaring coves and other obstacles to a collection point of strung-together pool noodles and enthusiastic captors with nets.
“Most of them will make it down,” said Faye Quick, assistant director of the Sandhills Children’s Center in Rockingham. But just in case, she said Friday, “we have wranglers who will be kind of shooing them down.”
After the “race,” wranglers in canoes and kayaks also will scout for the potentially hundreds of snared ducks so their rubber remains won’t pollute the creek, Quick said.
The event is intended to raise money for equipment for Sandhills, a private, nonprofit center that offers a child-developmental day program for children with and without special developmental needs.
As of midday Friday, more than 500 people had signed up online to sponsor ducks. (sandhillschildrenscenter.org/special-events-fundraisers/hitchcock-creek-duck-derby/)
The day will include the 5,000-duck race at 3:30 p.m.
Sponsors may donate $5 for one numbered duck, $20 for a “paddle” of four ducks, $50 for a “raft” of 10 ducks, $20 for a “flotilla” of 100 ducks or $100 for 250 ducks. That last sponsorship comes with the title of “quacker backer.” (Whether sponsoring more ducks increases the odds of winning is any statistician’s guess.)
First prize will be $1,500; second prize, $500. The next 48 duck sponsors will win a variety of prizes from event sponsors, which include bail bondsmen to pharmacies.
A shorter, smaller-scale race for children will take place at 3 p.m.
“We’ll get all of the kids out of the water first” before beginning the big race, Quick said.
Ducks for that race will cost parents or guardians $10 per duck, with kids’ being able to keep their ducks post race.
First prize will be four one-day passes to Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park in western North Carolina.
The day will begin at 2 p.m., with food trucks selling burgers, hot dogs and fries, and frozen treats. A bounce house will be blown up and ready for tiny, jumping feet. And “Derby the Dog” — a human inside a mascot suit — will greet the crowd while secretly praying for a cooling breeze.
Quick herself hopes for a rain-free day. Scooping up the ducks is frantic enough without the complication of a rain shower, she said.
But rain or no, the event is profitable, raising more than $35,000 in its first two years — and those totals rise each year, Quick said.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]