Storm forces cancellation of Rubber Ducky Race

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Bart Kounovsky and his son, Carter, 11, check their ticket at the starting area of the 19th annual Rubber Ducky Race on Saturday. The race, a fundraiser for the Yampa Valley Medical Center Auxiliary, was cancelled because of safety concerns and weather conditions.

— Kathy Ulmer spent most of Saturday morning in tears after she was forced to cancel one of her favorite Steamboat Springs events - the annual Rubber Ducky Race.

Friday and Saturday's mixed bag of weather forced event organizers to re-evaluate the safety of the Yampa River, where the fundraising race takes place. They eventually decided it was not safe to hold the race.

"The river flow was too high. This time of the year it's normally around your ankles. It was much higher than that on Saturday," Ulmer said. "It was a really tough decision. I was a basketcase, trust me, but when the volunteers were telling us they didn't want their men or their children in the water, there wasn't anything we could have done. It was a tough, tough decision."

"We wanted to do it, but it was a safety call. It wasn't safe to put the Boy Scouts or the volunteers that collect the ducks in that water," said Mindy Fontaine, a Yampa Valley Medical Center spokeswoman. "They would have been freezing."

This year's race would have been the 19th annual Rubber Ducky Race. Proceeds from the event go to the Yampa Valley Medical Center Auxiliary. This year, the Auxiliary pledged all proceeds to the hospital's Obstetrics Department and the Family Waiting Area. Event officials hoped the event would raise upwards of $23,000.

Event organizers posted a sign at the Fifth Street Bridge, where the thousands of ducks would have been dumped into the Yampa River. The sign informed people that the race had been cancelled and that prize winners would be announced at the hospital.

Prize winners were determined in as fair manner as they would have been if the ducks had been set loose, Ulmer said.

"I dressed up in my yellow duck outfit, I was blindfolded and (volunteers) dumped all the ducks on to the floor of a three-car garage, where I rolled around, dug and crawled to select the winning ducks," she said. "It was the best we could do."

Steamboat Springs resident John McFarland won the grand prize - a season pass to the Steamboat Ski Area. There were 124 other prizes awarded, Fontaine said.

Ulmer plans on calling every winner today. Prizes can be picked up Monday at the hospital's main entrance, she said.

"We're very sad about all of this," Fontaine said. "We're sorry the weather was the way it was (Saturday)."

Dozens of people raced to the hospital to find out if they had won prizes, despite not being able to participate in the race.

Steamboat resident Callum Richman, 11, won a gift bag with a T-shirt, a pair of socks and a coffee mug.

"Cool," he said.

Richman's family recently moved from Boulder and was looking forward to watching the ducks float down the river.

"We were only disappointed because our 3-year-old would have loved to have seen all those ducks in the water," Belinda Richman said. "But we'll come back next year."

Richman said her family purchased six duckies for the race - one for each member of the family.

"We have been reading the newspaper and we saw their banner over (Lincoln Avenue). We're just trying to do everything that Steamboat has to offer," she said.

Ulmer said anyone with questions about the event can call her at (303) 973-5359. Fontaine can be reached at 870-1146 on Monday.

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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