Release the quackin’: 31st Rubber Ducky Races a swimming success

Photo by Grace Harrison / Special to the Sun; Duckies race in the Kern River for the 31st year in a row at the Kern Valley Exchange Club’s Rubber Ducky Races on Saturday, August 25.

By Grace Harrison
Special to the Sun

It was a sunny August day in Kernville’s beloved Riverside Park. The park was bustling with tourists and natives alike however, on this warm Saturday, a squad of peculiar animals raced down the mighty Kern River. What were these animals, you may ask yourself? Rubber ducks! On August 25, 2018, the Kern Valley Exchange Club hosted its annual Rubber Ducky Race. Ron Smith, an Exchange Club member who chairs the event with wife, Marsha Smith, described the the 31st Rubber Ducky Race as: “A family event where you can bring your family and invest a small amount of money, and all the money that you invest goes to scholarships. You can have a wonderful time with your family, in the park, with no audio or video.”

At the Rubber Ducky Race, participants buy a duck that races in one of the ten heat races that are scheduled throughout the day. One-hundred ducks race in each race with the first, second, and third place winning ducks competing one last time in a final heat face. First, second, and third place winners of the final race are awarded $1,000, $500, and $250, respectively. Rubber Ducky Race participants don’t have to fear coming in last place as the last duck in every race goes into their own heat race with ten ducks, where the winner can win $100. “Not only can you win money, but you can invest your money in future young people who get an education out of it as well,” Smith concluded.

The Rubber Ducky Race is one of the Exchange Club’s biggest fundraisers of the year. All the money raised goes to scholarships that are given to seniors at Kern Valley High School for academic and vocational endeavors. “(The Rubber Ducky Race) benefits us all because when you get smart kids, then you get a good future. These kids are our future,” Smith explained. He continued, “Marsha and I have been chairing the Rubber Ducky Race for 22 years, and we even plan our vacation around this, we don’t go on vacation until after the Rubber Ducky Race. The satisfaction is having a sellout race, giving people a great time, and spending between $15-$20,000 in scholarships for the Kern Valley High School every year. And that’s a lot of satisfaction.”

Besides the race itself, there are many other activities that people of all ages can participate in. “We have many Mini Rubber Ducky Races where you use a pitcher pump, an old-fashioned hand-pump, and we have sack races and we have cotton candy and we have snow cones, and we have all this interaction with people having fun with each other,” explained Smith. The majority of the activities are run by volunteers. Smith estimates that this year there were about 100 volunteers, from Exchange Club members, to Kern Valley High School students, and everyone in between.

“I like to give back to the community,” said Pat Connell, a volunteer at The Rubber Ducky Race, when asked why she decided to volunteer. Connell, who has been volunteering at the event since 2014, said that the races mean bringing money and opportunity to the youth of the valley. Kenneth Porter, a fellow volunteer and junior at KVHS, voiced a similar opinion. “I think it means the gathering of the community, having fun, donating to the school, helping kids out, getting scholarships. It’s nice for the community to donate some money and help get kids out of here.” Porter, who has been volunteering at the Rubber Ducky Races for 3 years, was with his football team. “I think it’s nice to come out with the community and have some fun,” he concluded. Fellow KVHS junior, Hayley Weeden, ran a petting-zoo with KVHS’s Future Farmers of America chapter. She believes the Rubber Ducky Race is great for the community and helps bring it together. Her favorite part of the event was seeing everyone out and having fun.

This year’s turnout at the Rubber Ducky Races was spectacular, with Smith estimating over 1,000 attendees. “The Rubber Ducky Races started 31 years ago with people from the Exchange Club who wanted to do a fundraiser and heard about a ‘rubber ducky race’ and put it together, and here we are,” he concluded.

Photo by Grace Harrison / Special to the Sun; Volunteers wait to catch the winning duckies with nets.

The winners of the 31st Annual Rubber Ducky Race were:

Heat Races: 1st $75 2nd $50 3rd $25

Heat #1
1st Kern Valley sun Team
2nd Danny Wagner
3rd Aimee Steers
Last place Pat Terrell & Aurie Ashley

Heat #2
1st Kern Valley High School Admin
2nd Rita D’Angelo Real Estate
3rd Bill & Carla Stonebarger
Last Place: John Whaley

Heat #3
1st Margaret Haase
2nd Jack Tripp
3rd Ken & Linda Owens
Last Place; Heidi Sage

Heat #4
1st El Portal
2nd Wesley Whitaker
3rd Danny Wagner
Last Place: Richard Herd-Arvin Exchange

Heat #5
1st Red Rooster Café
2nd Harry’s Bar
3rd Tom & Sue McKinney
Last Place: Sharon Mathis

Heat #6
1st Larry Hiestand-Confidential Bookkeeping
2nd CJ Bundy
3rd Isabella Flooring
Last Place: Swift Napa Auto Parts

Heat #7
1st Bruce & Sylvia Hafenfeld
2nd Lynne Engel
3rd Nancy Miller
Last Place: John Anderson

Heat #8
1st Amisha Pannu
2nd Isabella Supermarket
3rd Harry Thal Ins.
Last Place: Jenny Brownell

Heat #9
1st Fred Roach
2nd Harry Turnham
3rd Steve Adam
Last Place: Roger Jaren

Heat #10
1st Sherry Van Matre
2nd Kern Lodge
3rd Yvonne Stockwell
Last Place: Tom Borchard

Main Event: 1st $1,000 2nd $500 3rd $250

1st Sherry Van Matre
2nd Fred Roach
3rd Rita D’Angelo

Last Place Main Event $100
Harry’s Bar

Loser’s Race $200
Richard Herd

Silver Duck Race #1 $480
Cindy Sanders

Silver Duck Race #2 $480
Ricky Ward

Lame Duck Race $500
Jeremy Humprey – Donated $250 back

Odd Duck Race $900
Penny Rivers

50/50 Prize $235
Mitch – Donated the entire amount back

$500 drawing prizes (2)
Elaine Roach
Daures Stephens