BY VERONICA COONS
LARNED — Saturday morning, Broadway and Main filled with families and people of all ages out for a good time as the 2017 Santa Fe Trail Days parade and festivities began. At noon, crowds of people migrated towards what Larned residents affectionately call “sled hill,” where the United Way of Central Kansas and the City of Larned prepared a plastic sluice where soon, a flotilla of over 700 ducks would soon float. The top 10 winners would walk away with cash prizes, and the rest, well, the loss would roll off them like water off a duck’s back.
As the first heats began, however, it became apparent the sluice wasn’t going to work. An opening between sheets of poly opened, and some of the ducks ended up being sucked under. Volunteers acted fast, collecting the ducks that made it to their destination, and carried them back to the top of the hill. Then others removed the poly lining from the bottom half of the hill, rolled the fire hose that had held all in place into position, and gathered up the unfortunate ducks left stranded in the gutter.
Once all were collected, it was time to do the race over again. Children at the bottom of the hill didn’t mind. After all, more water would soon fill the street, prolonging their chance to wade barefoot into the cool stream. As the flock of ducks was released a second time, there were no barriers to overcome, and in moments the winning 10 were collected and recorded. As the pressure built at the finish line, some of the ducks drifted past the rest, further on down the gutter and around the corner.
Larned’s children were only too happy to help collect the escapees. (See sidebar for winners.)
Race profits area charities
The race is in its third year. The United Way of Central Kansas and the Larned All School Reunion committee partner on the event that is quickly becoming a premiere fundraising event for Larned. Recently named Director of UWCK, Gaila Nielsen Demel experienced the excitement for the first time this year. All proceeds, she said, go to support the all the programs United Way of Central Kansas supports.
“People ask me if the money goes only to Larned,” she said. “I tell them no, the proceeds are split between all the communities. Each community has their premier fundraisers, and they all band together to help one another.”
Ducks could be purchased for $10 each, or six for $50 this year. One volunteer estimated they had sold at least 700 ducks prior to the race.
After the race, the Midway was open, and it wasn’t long before children were coaxing their parents and grandparents towards the amusements. Later in the afternoon, a matinee show was presented at the theater downtown for button wearers, and evening entertainment included more midway action, live music, a beer garden and more.
See page B1 for today’s schedule, more photos and the Duck Race winners.