Days of rain and a swollen, rushing river on May 25 changed traditional plans for the 13th Annual Great Pootatuck Duck Race.
Rather than floating plastic ducks along the Pootatuck River and fishing the winners from a collection point downstream, event chair Bob Schmidt spun tickets in a raffle wheel.
Although the Duck Race Committee had intended to continue with the race rain or shine as of Friday, by Saturday morning Mr Schmidt had explained that the committee, “made a difficult but sensible decision to cancel the Duck Race and all of the included events. The ground is wet and slippery and the rain is predicted to continue all day. It would not be safe for people to be walking around on the wet grass.”
Opting for a raffle rather than dropping ducks into the water, he said, “We came to the conclusion that the current is so strong that the ducks could just pass by the collection system and we would not be able to select the winners in a fair way.” He also worried about the River Crew’s safety when collecting ducks from the water.
Walt Schweikert said Saturday as the raffle began, “We’ll still have our winners." Crowded beneath a canopy partly shielding them from a frigid rain Saturday, guests — roughly 30 parents and children in raincoats and carrying umbrellas — watched tickets tumble from the outdoor platform at 5 Glen Road.
Normally, the race day fills the lawn with vendors, craft booths, baked goods, face painting, and other activities, drawing as many as 2,000 attendees. Glancing at the much smaller, huddled group, Mr Schweikert said, “People came, even in the rain.” Some of those people were still looking to buy last-minute tickets.
Among those bundled in slick rain gear was Isabella Ligouri, 3, clutching a stuffed toy duck. Her mother Tammy Ligouri has been to seven duck races. She looks forward to it each year “like Christmas,” she said. “I love it, even in the rain.” Kevin Corey, who helps with the event each year, watched the sea of umbrellas squeeze closer as Mr Schmidt announced: “One more minute to go,” until volunteers drew tickets from the wheel.
Lucia Rodriguez — the first of many children stepping up to pull a ticket — reached inside the wheel.
As the river surged past and rain continued, Mr Schmidt soon announced the last prize. Thanking guests, he said, “Pray for sunshine next year.”
Mr Schmidt will contact winners Saturday evening.