Brandon and Jackson Kessler, at front of boat, haul the first-place duck worth $5,000 in a net after it was snagged from among 5,768 others dropped over Twin Lakes on Saturday during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby. Will Fischer was the purchaser of the lucky duck. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Brandon and Jackson Kessler, at front of boat, haul the first-place duck worth $5,000 in a net after it was snagged from among 5,768 others dropped over Twin Lakes on Saturday during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby. Will Fischer was the purchaser of the lucky duck. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

After four years on the ground, Duck Derby flies anew

Glacier Valley Rotary fundraiser raises nets about $40,000

This story has been corrected to note the amount of money raised this year was about $40,000, not $500,000.

When Michelle Strickler said that every duck was a lucky duck, she meant all 5,769 of them.

That’s how many tickets — each one associated with a rubber duck — were sold as part of the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday.

That may seem overly precise for three-inch yellow ducks, but it’s just the start of the tracking, said Strickler, co-chair of the event. The ducks were closely monitored by volunteers as they grew in number on a net over several hours to keep things “upfront, transparent and legal,” she said.

A helicopter drops 5,769 rubber ducks over Twin Lakes during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

A helicopter drops 5,769 rubber ducks over Twin Lakes during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

There were 51 volunteers this year, said Strickler, who is also a past president of the club.

“We couldn’t do the event without them,” she said.

Keeping track of all the ducks collected on the net was that much more challenging once it was hoisted by a bright yellow helicopter, carried to nearby Twin Lakes and then released with aim at a large floating circle anchored to the bottom. Two teams in boats were at the ready to check on the ducks. One was filled with people and led by duck mascot Freda. The other had several men with nets who collected the ducks that escaped and put them in the ring. The prescribed rules have the ducks remain in the water at least 30 minutes before being rescued.

Duck mascot Freda leads a boat of people toward a large floating ring on Twin Lakes on Saturday where ducks were collected during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

Duck mascot Freda leads a boat of people toward a large floating ring on Twin Lakes on Saturday where ducks were collected during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

This year most of the ducks made it into the circle when they were dropped, but that hasn’t always been the case, said Hayden Garrison, a volunteer whose company, Creative Source, made the net.

“I’m always a little nervous because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said a couple of hours before the drop. In 2018, the wind had wreaked havoc, sending hundreds of ducks flying. “It was catastrophic,” recalled Garrison, “but the kids loved it.” The next year was a charm with just 13 ducks evading the initial transfer to the ring.

The logistical challenges of following the fowl were welcomed this year, given the last four years of the fundraiser revolved around a “duckless raffle.” That was for safety reasons prompted by COVID-19. The rubber ducks, in storage since then, received a good cleaning in advance of Saturday’s event.

Rubber ducks await their fate during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby at Twin Lakes Park on Saturday. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Rubber ducks await their fate during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby at Twin Lakes Park on Saturday. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Several hundred people attended the event. “It’s definitely fun and it gets a lot of the community out,” said Mike Miller. He heard about it on the radio while working at the post office. “You get to see a lot of people you haven’t seen in a while.”

Sharon Puustinen, another attendee, walked up a short time later to say hello to Miller. She said the rain might have kept her away, but it had held off.

“I’m a gambler, and I love entering contests and visiting with friends,” she said.

Connie Hulbert, a volunteer, said she joined Glacier Valley Rotary about eight years ago. A longtime resident of Juneau, she had a good network of friends before she joined.

“This is a whole group of people and a community I wouldn’t have known,” she said. “I wish I’d joined earlier.”

Max Mertz, Dan Holt and Eric Forst prepare to seal a net with 5,769 rubber ducks for their drop over Twin Lakes on Saturday during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Max Mertz, Dan Holt and Eric Forst prepare to seal a net with 5,769 rubber ducks for their drop over Twin Lakes on Saturday during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

About $40,000 raised during the event goes to support high school scholarships, improvements to Riverside Rotary Park, along with other local projects. The group is part of Rotary International. While it contributes to many of the organization’s wider efforts, all the money from the duck derby stays in Juneau.

“This is our biggest fundraiser for the club,” Strickler said.

Many companies, like Creative Source and Coastal Helicopters, owners of the bright yellow whirlybird that dropped the ducks, donated services. Other sponsors include Alaska Airlines, Alaska Marine Lines, Elgee Rehfeld, Gas ‘n Go, Goldbelt, Holland America, Holt Chiropractic, Juneau Radio Center, Princess Cruises, Solorad LLC, State Farm, Temsco Helicopters, True North, Valley Paint Center and Wings Airways.

2023 Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby winners

#1 $5,000 – Will Fischer

#2 $1,000 and two Alaska Airlines tickets – G. Michael Obert

#3 $1,500 – Neil MacKinnon

#4 $1,000 – Curtis Hopson

#5 $500 – Brad Austin

#6 $250 – Richard Rountree

#7 $250 – Michelle Umbs

#8 $250 – Scott Perkins

#9 $125 – Josephine Locke

#10 $125 – Lisa Rollin

• Contact Meredith Jordan at meredith.jordan@juneauempire.com or (907) 615-3190.

Numbered rubber ducks stacked on a net await to be dropped from a helicopter during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Numbered rubber ducks stacked on a net await to be dropped from a helicopter during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Hayden Garrison pulls up a corner of a net that his company, Creative Source, made to contain the thousands of ducks dropped from a helicopter during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby at Twin Lakes Park on Saturday. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Hayden Garrison pulls up a corner of a net that his company, Creative Source, made to contain the thousands of ducks dropped from a helicopter during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby at Twin Lakes Park on Saturday. (Photo by Kelly Moore)

Michelle and Steve Strickler examine a net filled with rubber ducks before they are dropped from a helicopter into Twin Lakes on Saturday during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

Michelle and Steve Strickler examine a net filled with rubber ducks before they are dropped from a helicopter into Twin Lakes on Saturday during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

A helicopter lifts a net carrying 5,769 rubber ducks at Twin Lakes Park during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

A helicopter lifts a net carrying 5,769 rubber ducks at Twin Lakes Park during the Glacier Valley Rotary Duck Derby on Saturday. (Meredith Jordan / Juneau Empire)

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