BRADENTON -- With hundreds of well wishers lining the shores of the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton Saturday evening, a flotilla of yellow ducks was unleashed as part of the sixth annual Lucky Ducky Race for PACE Center for Girls.
About 100 runners took part in the Quickest Quacky 5K Race, which preceded the Lucky Ducky Race, which floated away without a hitch from Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar, aided by a strong tide and volunteers on barges helping them along.
More than 14,000 yellow ducks were released into the river for a 20-minute float race, the largest number of fowl to date. For prices as low as $5 for a "Lonely Duck," and upward of $100 for a flock of 30, the public could adopt the bouyant yellow racers for the contest.
The Lucky Ducky Race is an annual benefit for PACE Center for Girls, an organization that provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.
Brady Chapman, co-captain of the Duck Deployment Crew (who also are members of the Crewe of Hernando De Soto), and PACE board member, said the race had to change course a bit because a strong wind blew in off the water.
"We've learned over the years, so we didn't set the course until after we knew where the wind would be blowing. We did a test run to insure that we had a great race."
Chapman explained the end of the race had a finish line chute so the winner could glide right through.
First-prize winner Patricia Flood of Bradenton, whose duck crossed the finish line first, received a two-year lease on a Chevrolet Cruze donated by Cox Chevrolet of Bradenton. She purchased her duck at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar Landside.
Onlooker Pam Quinn, of Fort Myers, cheered on both her son and daughter, a Bradenton high-school teacher, who took part in the 5K race.
"My daughter Monica has worked with the youth in this community as a social worker as well as a teacher, so she wanted to support this event," Quinn said.
Standing on the river's edge awaiting the ducks' released onto the race course, Bradenton resident Tommy Henager said he's been contributing to the PACE organization for the past three years and enjoys watching the race.
"I do this because I like helping the girls out," he said. "Anything that contributes to their future is a good thing."
Information about the PACE program and what it offers during the year is available at pacecenter.org.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.