BRISTOL - Dreary weather did not stop thousands of ducks from heading down the Pequabuck River Sunday, nor did it keep hundreds of people from seeing their arrival in Forestville.
“We sold out all the tickets we had here today,” Co-chairwoman Rebecca White reported from her post on the Central Street bridge.
Four thousand tickets were sold for the 14th annual Duck Race, with the first 28 ducks earning their ticket-holders prizes, starting with a $1,500 grand prize for the first duck to reach the finish line.
Other rewards included an Xbox One bundle, gift cards to Nuchie’s, Lee Po, San Gennaro, Sonic and other local businesses.
“It’s a great event to bring the community together into downtown Forestville,” White said. “I love seeing the kids and families watch the ducks come in.”
As visitors waited for the ducks to begin their journey from Broad St., they browsed vendor booths set up on Central Street throughout the day.
One of these was the 186thComposite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, a Plainville-based group that acts as the civilian branch of the U.S. Air Force. Members recruited interested newcomers and helped retrieve the ducks from the river banks.
“Cadets under 18 learn about leadership. They get to train and work on their military history skills,” Cadet Capt. Michael Bachand.
Representing the river itself were members of the Pequabuck River Watershed Association, who talked to visitors about the health of the water the ducks were traveling in.
“It’s certainly in better shape than it has been in decades past,” member Mary Rydingsward said. “It’s not healthy for people to be in the water because the bacteria count is usually too high, so we educate them about minimizing their impact and keeping contaminants out of storm drains.”
Member Michelle Rudy said the duck race is a good opportunity to raise awareness.
“The event draws attention to the river,” she added. “Sometimes people don’t even know its name.”
Maryann Beveridge has lived in Bristol all of her 46 years, but this year was her first attending the event.
“I’ve heard about it, but I’d never came before,” Beveridge said. “I wanted to experience it for myself.”
She and her friend, John Callahan, shared a spot on the fence above the bank, waiting to see the first pops of yellow in the water.
“I made her buy a ticket, so she had to come see it,” he said.
It was also the first duck race for Callahan, who said he bought tickets in years past but never actually attended.
“I wanted to be a part of the community today,” he added.
The Bristol Chamber of Commerce hosts the race in collaboration with several other local organizations.
Sponsors included Clean Harbors, which staffed the finish line to collect ducks. Race proceeds benefited beautification projects in Forestville and other areas of the city.
Bristol resident Britni Pastyrnak brought a live duck to the race, and spent much of the time letting youngsters pet him.
“His name is Dill,” she said. “His sister’s name is Pickles.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097, @schmittnbh or firstname.lastname@example.org.