Thousands of rubber ducks dotted race course in Manatee River, raising funds for PACE

The rubber duck race along the Manatee River was a little more heated this year even if the sun wasn't beating down on the competition.

With officials saying early counts showing approximately 1,000 more ducks in this year's race than 2017, more than 23,000 bright yellow ducks dotted the river on a hazy Saturday afternoon, racing for success.

The ninth annual Lucky Duck Race for PACE Center for Girls kicked off around 3 p.m. Saturday with hundreds of people gathered at Caddy's at the Pointe where the ducks dashed to the finish line. It's an improvement from the first year of the race, when there were just 5,000 ducks, said Amy Wick Mavis, executive director of the PACE Center for Girls in Manatee County.

"So much more than raising the money is the awareness. So many more people now know about PACE," Mavis said.

The rubber duck derby is the primary fundraising event for the PACE Center for Girls in Manatee County. The organization aims to help girls through academics, counseling, training and advocacy. There are PACE centers in 21 communities throughout Florida, Mavis said.

The funds raised Saturday go directly to the PACE program in Manatee County, which serves more than 100 girls a year, according to the organization's website.

Owners of the one lucky duck who won the race received a two-year lease on a new Jeep Wrangler while other runners-up were also awarded prizes such as a weekly dinner for two at Anna Maria Oyster Bar for a year.

Before the thousands of ducks were dropped into the water, the "Very Important Duck" race saw several corporate representatives throw a few dozen larger rubber ducks into the river, hoping theirs would be the first to reach the finish. It was the second year for the VID race.

Members of the duck deployment crew made sure every duck launched Saturday made it safely to the other end of the course.