As the sun beat down and attendees dealt with 98-degree heat at the Boulder Creek Hometown Festival on the Labor Day holiday, those along the creek let loose, hopping in the water and wading among a sea of yellow during the PLAY Boulder Foundation’s 2019 Duck Race.
About 6,000 rubber ducks made their way from the 9th Street bridge to the finish line past the 11th Street bridge, according to Pamela Yugar, who sits on the board of directors for the PLAY Foundation. Yugar said at least 2,000, and likely more, of the ducks were “adopted,” with proceeds from the adoption fee going to the foundation.
The event, which was a Memorial Day staple at the Boulder Creek Festival for decades, switched over permanently to Labor Day and the Boulder Creek Hometown Festival in 2018 after high water levels during the spring caused multiple cancellations. One incident saw thousands of ducks jump the net meant to catch them at the finish line.
In early September, the water isn’t nearly as rough, allowing spectators to kick off their shoes and take a dip, mingling with the bath toys making their way downstream.
“The reason why it’s so beautiful is the creek is so low that the children actually get in,” said Yugar. “And if a duck has problems swimming, then the little ones help the ducks kind of get on their way.”
And plenty of kids did hop in and help out, like Evan, a young boy who was there for the first time with his mother Karay Amundson. Mom said she loved the “family friendly” atmosphere of the event. Pointing to the middle of the creek, Evan Amundson showed how far he waded in during the race.
His favorite part, though, was the larger ducks businesses sponsored and dressed up. They included a cowboy, a dog and even a bell-hop.
Julianne Oliver, who was at the event with her family, including her three young children, said “you feel like you’re really a part of it” when standing in the water during the race.
“We were in our swimsuits and we stood in the middle of the creek,” she said. “So we’re surrounded by ducks, which is fun.”
The duck race capped off a Boulder Creek Hometown Festival that saw a weekend full of music, food, drinks and events.
Among the other notable attractions was “The Great Zucchini Race,” a pinewood derby style event where kids get to build cars using the vegetable and face off against each other, pushing their creations down a steep wooden ramp.
The StarLite Classic Car and Motorcycle show also took place over the holiday weekend, as well as the Rocky Mountain Beer Festival on Monday.
The PLAY Boulder Foundation, which organizes the race and benefits from its proceeds, supports parks and recreation within Boulder, piloting programs that plant trees, provide opportunities for kids to engage in sports and improve parks. Before 2018, money from the event went to support Boulder’s EXPAND program, which aims to help those with disabilities.