May 7, 2012


Duckies flow on a tide of goodwill

Corn-Ducky Derby raises $20,000 for local organizations

DucksJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Jack Ryan, 8, of Cortland, walks along Dry Creek Saturday freeing trapped ducks during the annual Corn-Ducky Derby at Suggett Park. Now in its 16th year, the derby had 5,401 ducks this year, each of which was sponsored by someone who purchased a $5 ticket.

Staff Reporter

Dry Creek flowed hard and a large crowd followed the action Saturday as more than 5,000 yellow plastic ducks floated through Suggett Park to raise money for community groups.
The 16th Annual Corn-Ducky Derby took place under overcast skies on a cool morning, with the mass of ducks released from under the Hamlin Street bridge and traveling to the bridge next to the Rotary Shelter. The first 15 ducks floating into a mesh chute and plastic tube were worth cash.
The event raised about $20,000 for a range of community groups, said Chris Ryan, the co-chair with Tom Dumas for the sponsor, Cortland Community Service Club. That brought the amount to about $160,000 since 2004.
About 250 people lined the creek’s banks and followed the floating yellow mass down the current, watching ducks get caught in debris or on rocks, or hit any of the 10 obstacles placed in the creek by the volunteers who set up and manage the derby.
Each of the 5,401 ducks was sponsored by someone who had purchased a $5 ticket. The tickets were sold by more than 100 businesses, individuals and organizations, Ryan said.
The grand prize of $2,500 went to Jim Fletcher of Castle Creek in Broome County, who purchased his ticket from the Greek Peak Ski Patrol. He named his duck Francis. Fletcher was not present.
The next nine ducks were each worth $100, and the next five after that were worth $25 apiece.
Children swarmed along Dry Creek’s banks, accompanied by parents and grandparents.
The prize winners and the people who sold them the winning tickets were announced by Dumas, after Ryan, Dumas and treasurer Don Reed matched the numbers on the ducks’ bottoms to the ticket list.
The three men and about 10 other volunteers had met at 7 a.m. at Hyde’s Diner before setting up the obstacles, which several of them had made, that included a schoolhouse; church; a well, complete with crank; lighthouse; barn; windmill; and a mill with wooden paddles that turned with the current.
Greg and Becky Costa of Homer brought their sons Nicholas, 5, and Matthew, 3, for the first time.
“We get ducks every year but this is the first year the guys were old enough to come to this,” Greg Costa said. “We bought 10 ducks, from family and friends, from sports like karate and soccer.”
He said the boys’ favorite ducks were Noogie, sponsored by Nicholas, and Moogie, sponsored by Matthew.
As the volunteers prepared to start the race, Barbara and Bob Tucker stood near the bridge in the crowd. They were alone, since their children and grandchildren live elsewhere.
Bob Tucker said he came to the Corn-Ducky Derby each year when he lived on Madison Street.
Barbara Tucker lived on Summit Street, not far from him, although they did not know each other over the years and both were married to other people.
Bob Tucker got divorced and Barbara’s husband, Robert O’Connor, died of Huntington’s Disease after she cared for him for several years. The two met at the county Senior Center, married on New Year’s Eve this year and now live in Leesburg, Fla., spending six months of the year at their Greek Peak Mountain Resort condominium.
“We try to do lots of things that are relaxing, after all the stress,” Barbara Tucker said as the race began.
“We bought one duck,” Bob Tucker said. “One is enough.”
Ryan said the 5,401 tickets sold this year was just behind last year’s number, which was close to 5,800.


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