Duck Day draws thousands, despite weather

NAUGATUCK — For the second time in as many weeks, thousands of revelers gathered in downtown Naugatuck. Last week, the Memorial Day parade attracted residents who lined the streets to pay tribute to our veterans.

This past Sunday, a crowd of almost 10,000 filled the downtown blocks, from the Maple Street bridge to the firehouse, to celebrate the fifth annual Naugatuck Duck Day and Race. Tents and booths were set up on both sides of Maple Street, which was blocked off to car traffic.

A sea of people mingled throughout the afternoon, visiting food venders, crafters and the Roaming Railroad, as children scurried about in search of the duck mascot.

Nearly 20,000 rubber duck raced downriver Sunday afternoon in the fifth annual Naugatuck Duck Day and Race. Forecasts calling for rain and thunderstorms didn't stop a large crowd of revelers from amassing downtown.

The Duck Day event, which is organized by the Naugatuck and Waterbury chambers, has raised over $175,000 for local non-profits over the past four years. Sunday’s crowd looked to exceed all previous marks, as nearly 20,000 rubber ducks hit the water.

The crowd was entertained by stilt walkers, mimes and the rocking, rolling tunes of the Rubber City Blues Band.

Before the start of the race, Mayor Robert Mezzo made one last check of the cargo in the bucket payloader, which was donated by Linewebber to dump the precious, bright yellow, rubber ducks into the Naugatuck River.

Tickets were being sold at a record pace for the $5 duck sponsorships along with raffle tickets that netted winners a bigscreen HDTV, box seats to a New York Yankees game, a Nintendo Wii and a first-place prize of $5,000 for the sponsor of the duck that crossed the finish line first.

As the 2 p.m. ticket deadline approached, thousands of people gathered on the Maple Street bridge and along the banks of the river to watch the big sendoff.

Threatening clouds loomed over the borough as a series of thunderstorms rumbled through the state. The Duck Day Race went off without a hitch, though, as Mother Nature held off long enough for the race to begin.

As the massive payloader raised its load high into the sky, clearing the railing of the bridge, a group of children standing in the adjacent parking lot cheered, “We want ducks! We want ducks!”

In an instant, the bright yellow cargo cascaded over the edge of the bridge, tumbling down into the Naugatuck River to the cheers of the crowd. The mass of rubber ducks

was carried swiftly downstream as revelers chased after them, trying to catch a glimpse of the winner crossing the finish line.