FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BROWNSVILLE, Pa. – Putting the spirit of the 1930s-era late comic Joe Penner's famous line, "Wanna buy a duck," to practical use, Brownsville's annual Ducky Race has transitioned from a simple fund raiser to a highly anticipated event – and the only one of its type on the Monongahela River.
Come Aug. 4, Brownsville Area Revitalization Corp. will mark its fourth annual Ducky Race, which was patterned after hundreds of other races worldwide and fine-tuned locally to establish a fund raiser that the community could embrace.
"We wanted to use our existing resources … the wharf, Inter-County Bridge and the water," recalls Tracy Zivkovich, a member of BARC and Brownsville Borough Council. "And, we wanted to establish something that would be fun for all ages."
Zivkovich, who also chairs the Blueprint Communities Committee, decided after the first year to ratchet up the interest by adding a community festival, which is co-sponsored with the borough and BARC.
A plan emerged to pencil the two events on the first Saturday after Kennywood Days, which traditionally takes place on the first Thursday in August. The timing was viewed as logistically ideal because former residents from all corners of the world are home that week to spend time with families and friends at reunions, Kennywood and other special events. Brownsville's Kennywood Days is marking its 99th consecutive year.
The one-eighth mile Ducky Race course takes about an hour to set up, a task that belongs to Zivkovich's husband, Mickey, and son, Christopher. Floating rope and floating pool noodles are laid V-shaped in the river from the Inter-County Bridge to the boat slips at Brownsville Riverside Wharf. The first three ducks to reach the end are the winners. The same panel of honorary judges has served each year: Brownsville Mayor Lester Ward and council members Charlie Perkins and Ross Swords.
"People were really amazed when we did it," Zivkovich recalls. "The best part for me is seeing everyone there, jockeying for position on the wharf for an event that, at times, could last only 10 or 15 minutes."
Despite the seeming ease of the event, BARC members start selling tickets about three weeks in advance and preparing for the 3:30 p.m. race day drop of hundreds of yellow rubber ducks into the Mon. Each duck sports a number that corresponds to a ticket. Ducky Race tickets will be available at the festival or can be purchased in advance at BARC's office in the Flatiron Building, 69 Market St.
Making an appearance for the third year are corporate ducks, which has hyped interest and competition
among local businesses. Last year, 12 corporate ducks were all decked out for the event. To date, sponsorships have been secured by Lee's Plumbing & Excavating Inc. of Uniontown, Monongahela Valley Hospital, PNC Bank, Local 286 of the Construction & General Laborers Union, Fayette Podiatry Associates, Rohland Patt & Rohland of Brownsville, Grindstone Foodland, Sheehan's Automotive & Machines Inc. of Brownsville.
"I've not seen corporate ducks any place else," says Zivkovich, who credits her years of fund-raising involvement with triggering the idea. "People love to gamble. It created some competition and another opportunity."
The annual Ducky Race requires approvals from the Pennsylvania Fish & Game Commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And as the committee has learned through the years, the current can be optimized by closing the Maxwell locks and opening the Charleroi pool.
Because BARC's Ducky Race is the only one on the Mon, it has etched Brownsville into the history books of rubber duck races worldwide. The first race in the U.S. was held in 1991 in Aspen, Colo., and the largest remains Pennsylvania's neighbor to the West, Cincinnati, where the Rubber Duck Regatta last year topped 100,000 ducks after 18 years of building momentum.
BARC's second year – 2009 – still holds the local record: 850 yellow rubber ducks. "I'd like to sell all 1,000 ducks," Zivkovich says. "That would be really great."
To schedule an interview:
Tracy Zivkovich, 724-785-5761
The mission of the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation is to achieve economic development through historic preservation, heritage tourism, outdoor recreation, community stewardship, education, youth advancement and the arts. Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation is a 501 (c)(3))
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