Eight thousand rubber duckies swam for the finish line on Sept. 6 at the Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash at the DuQuoin State Fair. The inaugural event raised about $40,000 for Special Olympics in Southern Illinois.
Duck Ambassador and Special Olympics athlete John Henley of Marion accompanied Gov. Bruce Rauner in a boat as the governor dropped the flag to signal the start of the race. A cascade of duckies flowed from a dump truck into a pond behind the fair’s Expo Hall and began swimming for the finish line. Area 15 volunteers Bill Asbury and Billy Mathis created the pump and jet spray system that helped move the ducks along their route.
Ducks were available for adoption for $5. “We were thrilled to sell all of the 8,000 ducks we had on hand and think that we could sell twice that many next year now that people have experienced the Ducky Derby Dash in Southern Illinois,” said Area Director Paul Melzer. “I would like to give a special thanks to the Asbury family, the Mathis family, SIU Softball, SI HotRodders, Lightning Bolts, all our volunteers, our sales teams, our sponsors and all those involved in making the inaugural Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash a huge success. We look forward to partnering with the DuQuoin State Fair again for next year’s Ducky Derby Dash.”
Lisa Bequette of Arnold, Mo., adopted the winning duck and received an all-inclusive Apple Vacation to Cancun Mexico, Chad Harsy of DuQuoin won $2,000 cash courtesy of Country Financial, and Yolanda Betz of Stonefort won a NASCAR Infinity Series Race Package.
The Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash was sponsored by the Du Quoin State Fair, Roland Machinery Company, C and C Pumps and Supply, SIU Credit Union, Palmieri Personal Training, Enhanced Networks, Apple Vacations, RIU Hotels and Resorts, Country Financial, Chicagoland Speedway, St. Nicholas Brewing Co., Black Diamond Harley Davidson, Alongi’s Italian Restaurant, Carbondale Police Department, Illinois State Police District 13, Ducks Unlimited, Knight Hawk Coal, Ward Chrysler Center, Ward KIA Center, the Late Bill Mathis Sr. and Family, Rend Lake RV, and the St. Louis Blues. Media partners were WSIL-TV 3, River Radio of Southern Illinois, and the DuQuoin Evening Call.