An Interview with Big Duck, Beth Weisberg
Every year, the Estes Park Rotary Duck Race has a new leader, ‘Big Duck’ to the Duck Race Committee. This year’s Big Duck is Beth Weisberg of Estes Park. We asked Weisberg to reflect on this year’s Duck Race and its impact on the community.
Q. What strikes you as the most amazing thing about the Estes Park Duck Race?
A. I think the most amazing thing about the Estes Park Duck Race is that it has continued, uninterrupted, as the largest single fundraising event benefiting multiple Estes Valley charities and nonprofit Organizations since 1989. This is the 34th consecutive year of the Estes Park Duck Race! For some of our Organizations, the Duck Race is the difference between being able to continue to carry on their mission, or not. This year, we are delighted that the ducks will be racing back in the river again, with a full Festival including live music and other entertainment, face painting, a scavenger hunt, balloon art and the annual 5K Duck Waddle.
Q. What is the Race Day highlight, in your opinion?
A. One of the most exciting highlights of Race Day is that incredible moment when more than 7,000 little yellow rubber duckies are dropped into Fall River at Nicky’s Steakhouse from the duck cage that is suspended high in the air. Suddenly, the river turns bright yellow with a big splash, and away go the ducks down the river! It is a Duck Race moment that should not be missed. Another highlight is finding out how much the charities and nonprofits have managed to raise for their annual budgets from duck adoption sales and knowing all the good it will do for people in the Estes Valley.
Q. Many local residents and groups participate in the Race volunteering, entertaining, selling adoptions, serving as sponsors, walking the river, etc. Does that make a Big Duck honk with happiness?
A. The success of the Duck Race in Estes Park is only possible due to all of these collaborations. The Duck Race has grown over the years to the point that our Rotary club could not sustain this event without the help of our volunteers and partnerships.
Q. Here’s your chance to send some thankful quacks before the ducks drop.
A. There are so many people to thank. We are especially grateful to Claire’s Restaurant and Bar for being our first-ever Named Sponsor this year, which has enabled us to have the Rocky Mountain Channel and Nick Molle promote duck adoptions and live-stream the Duck Race with no net cost to the Duck Race. Visit Estes Park has done an incredible job managing our Facebook page and promoting the Duck Race through press releases and other publicity outreach. The Estes Park Nonprofit Resource Center is organizing and running River Security this year, which is a major undertaking involving almost 100 volunteers and is crucial to the safe operation of the Duck Race. The Estes Chamber of Commerce is helping to raise merchant prizes, and they have also created a new-this-year scavenger hunt on Race Day to add to the fun. The generous donations from our many Major and Associate Sponsors are helping to underwrite the event expenses so that the return to the charities can continue to be so great. Delaware North has donated the vacation package prizes at Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks again this year, as they have done for many years. We deeply appreciate all of these wonderful folks, without whose help we might not have been able to keep the Duck Race tradition going. We appreciate our town’s supportive merchants who have donated hundreds of wonderful prizes for duck adopters to win. We continue to be impressed by the 66 Participating Organizations and their enduring commitment to selling duck adoptions to benefit their causes, and their providing at least one volunteer per Organization to help with the Duck Race this year. Some Organizations have provided up to six volunteers! The Estes Park Police Department Auxiliary is donating their services for crowd and parking control. We also have volunteers from the general public who have signed up to help out. The Rotary Club of Estes Park’s Tech Team has volunteered their services for nearly a year to create a much-needed new Duck Race software system, and they have developed new ways to make online duck adoptions simpler for the Organizations to promote and easy enough for even the least tech-savvy to adopt ducks from our website. We thank all of these people. Without their many contributions, the Duck Race Festival as we know it could not go on. And of course, the Duck Race couldn’t happen without the dedication of the Duck Race Committee and the Rotary Club of Estes Park, dozens of whom have spent months organizing the Duck Race so far and will continue to devote countless hours between now and May 7, to make this event a success for our charities and nonprofits and a really fun day for our whole community.
Q: Can you describe the experience of leading a fundraiser that is expected to raise over $100,000 for Estes Valley Participating Organizations?
A: The Duck Race is an Estes Valley institution, and it truly is a privilege to help carry on such a revered tradition. I have heard from adults and even seniors who grew up going to the Duck Race every year. There is a feeling of responsibility to maintain the charm and personal feel of the event and the community involvement of our merchants and our Organizations, at the same time we adopt modern technology to make recordkeeping and promotion of duck adoptions more efficient. It is absolutely a lot of work, and as a fundraising event for so many Organizations, it is actually quite complicated and involves a lot of moving parts. It’s worth the hard work, though, the best part is all the people you work with who also love what they are doing for the Duck Race. It is a labor of love all the way around. Connecting with sponsors, merchants, volunteers, nonprofit organizations, and forming lifelong relationships with committee members is a huge reward that I will always remember and cherish. Something new and interesting has happened nearly every day while I have been the Big Duck. I have loved interacting with so many people in different departments of the Town, including Mayor Koenig – all of whom are supportive of the mission of the Duck Race and have been so helpful. – and hearing the stories about Duck Races in prior years, that took place in all sorts of weather. And I deeply admire and respect all the Big Ducks who have served before me. It’s a privilege to join that group and do my part to give back to this beautiful community.
Q: Do you have advice for future Big Ducks?
A: I highly recommend to anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to be the Big Duck to just step up and try it. It will involve many months of work, and lots of creativity, flexibility and a sense of humor, not to mention the need to keep many moving parts organized — and lots of late nights! But it’s easy when you keep in mind why we are doing this, and the good that can be accomplished. Bring in people to help who are as enthusiastic about fun and service as you are, and with everyone working together, the Duck Race can go on for another 34 years or more! And when the Duck Race is over, go get a cookie or ice cream or taffy in town, and walk around Lake Estes wearing your Duck Race vest with some of the other volunteers, reminiscing about how much fun it was.
Q: What do we need to know about this year’s Race Day?
A: Race Day will start off 9:00 a.m. with the 5K Duck Waddle. We expect to sell over 7,000 duck adoptions this year, with $19 of every $22 adoption going to whatever charity or nonprofit Organization the purchaser selects. This year all duck adoptions will be made online only, and it’s fast and simple to do by going to our website, www.epduckrace.org. Anyone can adopt a duck from their cell phone, iPad, computer, or other device in just a couple of minutes. And with every duck adoption, the purchaser is doing so much good! Not to mention that there are hundreds of prizes donated by our local merchants, as well as a grand prize of $8,000 cash, and other major prizes of $5,000 cash, $2,000 cash, a 3-night vacation package at Yellowstone, and a 3-night vacation package at Glacier National Park. So it’s a community festival and a major fundraiser for 66 charitable organizations, a day full of fun and hundreds of chances to win prizes, all in one!
Q: Do you need volunteers on Race Day?
Yes! Please email me at BigDuck@epduckrace.org to help make Race Day a success.
The Estes Park Rotary Duck Race Festival is held annually on the ﬁrst Saturday in May. The Annual Duck Race continues a tradition started in 1989, which has returned nearly $3 million to local Estes Park charities and groups. 2022 marks the 34th annual Duck Race.