Steamboat Springs There was no need for a photo finish at the 20th Annual Rubber Ducky Race on Saturday as the first-place, little yellow bird won by 150 feet and beat the last-place duck by almost an hour.
The race was much closer than the results indicated. One duck led the sprint down the Yampa River for nearly the entire eight-block race, which began when volunteers dumped about 2,200 rubber ducks off the Fifth Street Bridge into river.
The ducks collected in a large yellow mass, floating mostly in unison as a few stragglers were left behind and a few speedsters pulled ahead. Once the ducks were in the water, spectators raced downstream to get a better view of the race.
At the footbridge crossing the Yampa near Howelsen Hill, the crowd anxiously waited for the ducks to round the bendin the river. Moments later, the first duck appeared, and a frontrunner had been established.
A Boy Scout troop with an arsenal of brooms, branches and lacrosse sticks jostled ducks loose from behind obstacles along the course, but slow and steady would not win the race.
Emerging with a thunderous chorus of applause at the C-hole, the leader was poised to coast to the checkered flag when it became stuck in a massive hydraulic hole just 200 feet from the finish line.
Aaron Clayton's duck seized the opportunity and never looked back, winning the race and pocketing the purse - a Steamboat ski pass.
"We raised about $22,000 here today for the Yampa Valley Medical Center," Rubber Ducky Race co-chair Kathy Ulmer said. "I'm just glad the weather held out."
Last year, the event was canceled after heavy rain and sleet raised river waters to unsafe levels.
Tasha Getten, 8, won a grab bag of mountain biking gear after one of her 20 adopted ducks placed in the top 60.
"It's fun, but you don't know which duck is yours when it floats by," said Getting, who was dressed in a duck-emblazed pajama outfit that she called her "lucky PJs."
The race was the first of three downtown events Saturday. The second annual Downtown Hoedown and Chili Challenge and the Festival of the Americas celebration rounded out the day.
The Routt County CattleWomen's red chili submission had a few special ingredients that contestants were eager to share.
"There are two of my favorite things in there - chocolate and tequila," said CattleWoman Kate Burns, who presented the organization's submission in a historic chuck wagon. "It's cooked in an iron kettle over hot coals, just like they used to do in the old west."
The CattleWomen won first place in their red chili division. Other winners included Kristin Cronin of KBCR in the white chili division and George Trujillo, who won first place in both the firehouse and green chili divisions.
Trujillo was unable to hold onto his title from last year as the People's Choice Award winner, as he was beaten by the Mahogany Ridge chili cookers.
In addition to the chili challenge, the downtown hoedown featured music by the Yampa Valley Boys, square dancing, mechanical bull riding and various arts and crafts.
At 3 p.m., the smell of chili wafting through the air was replaced by the smell of tostadas and rellenos and the music changed from country to Tejano. However, the Festival of the Americas had one common ingredient with the hoedown - celebrating a beautiful Saturday in the park.
"Mexican Independence Day is tomorrow, but there are Mexican people, American people helping - there is a lot of nationalities here," said Fabiola Katthain, who teaches Spanish at the Lowell Whiteman Primary School.
Integrated Community sponsored the festival. The nonprofit organization looks to promote successful integration of the immigrant community with the existing communities in Routt and Moffat counties.
Katthain's daughter's Tamy, 7, and Gala, 3, were dressed in traditional Adela outfits.
"Adela is the name of a lady who had a large role in fighting for Mexican independence," Katthain said. "I think it's wonderful to celebrate heritage in our community with our neighbors."
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