Duck Derby splashes down at Allens Pond for 18th year

Aug 25, 2023

Three thousand ducks. Two minutes. One winner. 

The morning of Friday, Aug. 25, a swarm of rubber ducks splashed down at Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, beginning a slow, but dramatic swim toward the finish line. 

There was a lot on the line for each duck: the winning fake fowl receives a whopping $5,000 prize — well, ultimately the prize goes to its owner, one of over 300 supporters that purchased ducks to compete in the sanctuary’s annual Duck Derby. 

This year, Cheryl Blanchard from Kingston won the $5,000 prize with her “Blanchard Birds.” Second place went to Sheila Vento from Norton, who won a Mass Audubon membership and a swag bag. An annual award also goes to the last place duck (dubbed the “Slacker Quacker”), which went to Pedro Castro. 

The Duck Derby, which benefits conservation efforts and programming from the sanctuary, began in 2004 and has become the “signature fundraiser” for Allens Pond, said Gina Purtell, Program Manager for Coastal Resilience and Community Science at Mass Audubon.

The derby returns this year after taking last year off for the opening of the sanctuary's All Persons Trail, a disability-accessible half-mile walking tour. 

The Duck Derby began as a way to stand out among other fundraisers in the region, but also connect back to Mass Audubon’s wildlife and conservation focus. 

“It’s a frivolous, fun, cute, eccentric, silly [event] that kind of grabs people’s attention, but it's also an entry point for us to talk about the importance of estuaries and coastal habitats,” Purtell said. “Even though little rubber ducks are just bathtub toys, they turn people's attention to [our mission].”

Before the pandemic, the sanctuary would host a festival to announce the winners of the race, but this year, staff gathered at Buzzards Bay Brewing after the event for a more casual announcement. 

The race typically raises between $20,000 and $30,000, Purtell said. This year was no different: supporters chipped in around $25,000 through their duck purchases. The prize money will not come out of this fund, but rather is provided by community sponsors. 

In past years, the winner would receive dinner for two anywhere in the world, which paid for both airfare and a hotel. However, this year’s cash prize allows the winner to choose their own prize in an attempt to be more carbon-neutral, Purtell said.