More than 5,000 competitors defied the inclement weather Friday to compete in what has been billed as the largest race of its kind in the United States.
The winner's circle only had room for four, so only the hungriest of ducks claimed victory.
And yes, you read that correctly: ducks.
Yellow rubber ducks, in adensity difficult to imagine, floated down Kalahari's indoor river, competing for the third annual Rubber Duck Derby title. Riding on the win were fabulous prizes for the ducks' owners.
"Kalahari has been promoting this for the last couple of weeks, and all of their staff are wearing duck-billed hats," said John Lippus, director of the Sandusky Main Street Association. "It's crazy."
The Duck Derby is a fundraising event benefitting the Sandusky Main Street Association and the United Way of Erie County, both to the tune of about $30,000.
Members of the public purchased the ducks in advance for $15 a pop. Those ducks were identified with numbers on their bellies so the buyers would know if their duck won.
The ducks were dumped into the tanks that create Kalahari's waterfalls, sending the ducks down river in a slow drift.
A crowd, some of whom wore rubber duck necklaces and bracelets, cheered on the slow-moving flightless waterfowl.
Anyone who is familiar with rubber ducks from bathtub entertainment knows they are not the fastest of things. They drift at roughly the speed of broken branches.
But not always.
Last year, one duck moved at break-neck speed, Lippus said.
"Last year, the race took eight minutes because one duck took off like a bat-out-of-you-know-what, and just caught a leftover current and went around, screaming by himself," Lippus said.
Special measures were taken this year to ensure no rubber competitors had an unfair advantage over the others. Lippus said they were removing all currents; he did not say if they were testing the ducks for performance enhancers.
Bryan Kasper of Kasper Auto Group, which donated a Toyota Tundra truck for the first prize, said since the event's inception, organizers have smoothed out some of the rough elements of competition.
"The first year, we had plastic ducks that didn't float as well as we wished they would have. They flipped upside down and everything, so we got some real nice ducks that Coldwell Banking had bought for us," Kasper said.
Wearing yellow rubber ducky sun visors, Kim Cich, 30, of Grand Island, N.Y., and her son, David, watched as the flock of leaders floated past. What made the 12-minute race "nerve-racking," Kim Cich said, was that it was impossible to tell which duck was winning, since the numbers were on the duck's underbellies. She didn't want to cheer on a duck that wasn't hers.
In the end, thousands of synthetic waterfowl gave it their best, but only four earned fame and glory.
None of the four winners were present to claim their prizes. First place, winning a two-year lease of a Toyota Tundra truck, went to duck No. 4525, owned by Jennia Knestrick of Findlay. Second place went to David Merkle of Sandusky, who won a large-screen LCD TV and home theater system.
None of the 10 randomly selected ducks crossed the finish line first, so the $100,000 prize was not awarded.
Better luck next year, ducks.