Insurance concerns leave Lewiston charity rubber duck race high and dry

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LEWISTON — The rubber ducks will stay dry this year, but a Sunday fundraiser that’s part of the Great Falls Balloon Festival will go on as planned.

Bart Kelsea, spokesman for the Lewiston-Auburn Rotary Club, said the traditional rubber duck race has been canceled this year because of insurance concerns.

The race was scuttled by the canal’s owner, Canada-based Brookfield Renewable Power, he said.

“We learned about it on Monday, and we were initially concerned,” he said. “But they came back and gave us a nice contribution, in lieu of this last-minute snafu. So there are no hard feelings.

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“Times change, and there is liability to think about,” Kelsea said. “Without an insurance policy and other things, it can’t happen this year. But we’re OK with it.”

Instead, Kelsea said the Rotary will have a simple drawing to determine this year’s winners.

“To be honest, we sell between 2,000 and 2,500 tickets, but it’s not really a well-attended event,” he said. “It’s just a few curious people, like 30 or 40 who show up to watch.”

The drawing is scheduled for noon at the Rotary’s yellow and blue booth in Simard-Payne Memorial Park, the same place where tickets for the drawing can be purchased.

The annual dunking of the rubber ducks has been part of the Great Falls Balloon Festival for 22 years, he said. The race typically began near Main and Canal streets, with a loader dumping the rubber ducks into the canal. They floated downstream to the bridge across from Ash Street.

“It’s not a typically fast race,” he said. “It can take those ducks a little while float down. It’s not like we’re racing rabbits or dogs, just slow- moving little ducks.”

The first 25 are collected by volunteers in canoes. The rest are scooped up with a net.

The first-place duck wins a $1,000 grand prize for its sponsor, while others win smaller awards.

“The rest typically get gift certificates, like local restaurants or Home Depot or whatever,” he said. “We might have a $50 gift certificate to DaVinci’s, followed by gift certificates to Roopers.”

Benefits from the rubber duck drawing and all money raised around the event go to other local charities, including the Boys and Girls Club, Maine Adaptive Skiing and New Beginnings.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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