Springfield annual Duck Run makes a virtual splash

duck run
Christian Craig waits for duck race winners. Photo by Jo Robbins

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – On Saturday, July 18, 528 tiny, yellow plastic ducks with numbers on them went into the Black River off the bridge on Route 106 in North Springfield to begin the race and launch the annual Duck Run event that this year, because of COVID-19 social distancing concerns, went virtual.

In 2019, this was a lively festival that drew crowds and raised about $3,800 for each of the two presenters of this collaborative fundraiser, Springfield Area Parent Child Center and the Edgar May Health and Recreation Center. But this year is different and the “new normal” necessitated both organizations err on the side of caution and live stream the race instead of drawing a crowd. So, there was no silent auction, no gift shop, and no rock wall. And because this year wasn’t a good year to ask for sponsors, there were no sponsors.

Vermont Telephone Company’s Sam Coleman provided a commercial hotspot at this typically spotty signal area to carry the live stream.

Angela Kelley, associate director of SAPCC, set up a tripod camera on the top of the bridge and waited for the signal to start the race. Margot Holmes, executive director of SAPCC, took videos from her kayak on the water.

Once the Wi-Fi signal went live, Kelley’s husband Scott and son Oliver stood on the bridge and, at the go signal, dumped all 528 ducks from a bucket into the river. It appeared at first that the low water and slow current – both unusual for this time of year – might not carry the ducks to the finish line, but the Kelleys planned the dump site well in a spot where the ducks could catch as much current as possible.

Meanwhile, Christian Craig, executive director of the Edgar May, his wife Lizzy, and Edgar May’s facilities director Keith Graham, all participated in duck retrieval at the finish line. Lizzy Craig shouted out the numbers of the winners of this year’s event, and they are: first place Kenneth Smith for $250; second place Kimberly Lamoureaux for $100; third place the Springfield Rotary Club for $50; and the last duck belonged to Neomi Lauritsen, who won a month’s membership to the Edgar May.

SAPCC, a nonprofit on Main Street in North Springfield, provides a wide range of services to support local families with young children including early childhood learning. Kelley said she was pleasantly surprised that as many ducks sold this year considering the circumstances. She said, “During this time of COVID-19, we have been giving out an increased number of concrete supports like diapers and wipes, formula, gift cards for shopping, gas cards and financial support with rent and utility bills.” Kelley said, “SAPCC works with over 3,000 individuals each year to build bridges of support for children, families, and caregivers.”

The Edgar May Health and Recreation Center, on Clinton Street in Springfield, provides programs that include Pilates, swim lessons, group exercise, healthy living and fitness classes, wellness coaching, and personal training to name just a few.

SAPCC and the Edgar May will evenly split the proceeds from the race and the money will benefit Springfield families.

SPACC director Holmes said, “We are so appreciative of the Edgar May for partnering with us to bring this event to the community and openly support the families.” She added, “We are here and we are open. If people need us, give us a call.” The number is 802-886-5242.

Kelley said it is not too late to support both organizations. There is a “donate” button on both websites.

The partners were determined to keep this tradition going during this complicated time and the greater than expected participation is evidence that community spirit is still alive and well.

The partners also wish to thank VTel for its support and assistance by providing the technology to make the event possible.

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