As sure as budding flowers are a sign of spring in Westerly, R.I., so is the bobbing of 20,000 yellow rubber ducks on the Pawcatuck River, in the name of fun and some serious fund-raising.
The 11th annual Rubber Duck Race, hosted by the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for April 25, an event that last year raised $80,000 for area nonprofits and schools, said Heather Donnellan, events manager for the chamber.
Each duck is bar-coded. Everyone buying a $5 ticket gets a certificate proclaiming them sponsor of a duck.
The race kicks off at 2 p.m. in this town near the Connecticut border when a pay loader dumps the ducks into the river from the Pawcatuck Bridge, to the screams of thousands of onlookers, Donnellan said. From there, the ducks bump and bob downstream a half mile where the winner is plucked from the water at Donahue Park in Pawcatuck, Conn.
Grand prize is a trip for four to Disney World in Florida or $2,500 cash. There are more than 90 prizes in all, the rest being donated gift certificates to area retailers and restaurants.
Festivities kick off at noon at Donahue Park off Mechanic Street and include face painting, a rock-climbing wall, moon walk, and duck games. Duck sponsorships are available at westerlychamber.org and will be available race day up to 15 minutes before the 2 p.m. start. A separate corporate race is held at 1 p.m. with 150 ducks sold for $150 each, for a $1,500 prize, Donnellan said.
And as you may have guessed, the event is held rain or shine.
‘‘Ducks like both,’’ Donnellan said.
Posted by Paul E. Kandarian, Globe correspondent
PAUL E. KANDARIAN