Safety concerns may have kept the synthetic water fowl out of Boulder Creek, but this year's EXPAND Duck Race--rushing water or no--was a big deal for many, including local kid, Carsten Gilbert.

2014 EXPAND Duck Race top finishers

Grand Prize: Beth Ewaskowitz, Erie

Prize: A year-long family Boulder Parks and Recreation family pass accepted at all rec centers, outdoor pools and Boulder Reservoir.

Second Prize: Teeg Williams, Boulder

Prize: An "Experience Boulder" package including an overnight stay at a luxury hotel, breakfast and a gift card to downtown Boulder businesses.

Third Prize: Julia Spiker, Denver

Prize: A family splash pass good for entry to two outdoor pools and Boulder Reservoir all summer long.

For more information about EXPAND visit https://bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/expand-program-for-people-with-disabilities

 

 

EXPAND, a Boulder Parks a Recreation program, provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. It is also the beneficiary of the annual duck race event that for nearly three decades has dumped thousands of rubber duckies into Boulder Creek on Memorial Day in a whacky race for a wide variety of prizes.


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It cost $5 to buy and duck and chuck it into the race, with all proceeds going toward funding recreational events for disabled people.

Carsten, 13, has a developmental disability. He has been participating in EXPAND programs since he was 5 years old, his parents say.

After exceptionally high water bumped the race from the creek for just the second time in its 27-year history, organizers asked Carsten to help pull the winning ducks from a kiddie pool placed in front of the Central Park Bandshell on Monday.

Carsten, with the help of "Quacky," an EXPAND volunteer disguised as a giant duck, helped pluck 114 prize winning ducks from the pool as "Sesame Street" character Ernie's musical ode to bath time "Rubber Duckie" played in the background.

Carsten's mom, Mary Joe Weston, looked on proudly while her son helped out with a Boulder Creek Festival tradition.

She said Carsten has participated in integrated gymnastics classes through EXPAND and this year took part in the Special Olympics gymnastics and track regional meets with the help of the Boulder program.

"He couldn't do that without EXPAND," the mother of three said. "EXPAND has provided some of his best opportunities for peer interaction and making friends. It is just awesome."

Dozens of people gathered closely around the baby pool to watch the duck selection, but the event clearly lost some of its appeal with Boulder Creek missing from the equation.

Cory Lasher, therapeutic program coordinator for EXPAND and emcee of Monday's event, estimated that 3,500 ducks were sold, making it among the least participated in events in the Duck Race's 27-year history.

In 2013, around 7,000 ducks floated down Boulder Creek.

She said it is not the first time that unpredictable weather and high water forced organizers to move the event from Boulder Creek, noting that after a rainy weekend in 1996, that year's race also was done on dry land.

"It just wasn't safe," to hold the race in Boulder Creek this year, Lasher said. "Every year is different. You never know what to expect."

Despite the lower participation this year, Lasher said she is thankful for all the people that helped support EXPAND. She said the money raised this year--organizers were still tallying exactly how much was raised Monday afternoon--will fund scholarships, adaptive recreational equipment and additional programs as well as a summer camp for handicapped adults.

Boulder resident Jake DiPane, 12, was a first time duck race participant this year and said he had really been looking forward to watching his rubber champion float down Boulder Creek.

"It's a race. I just feel like watching your duck try to beat all the others down the creek is exciting," Jake said, noting the kiddie pool wasn't the same.

Still, family friend Cynthia Watts, who sponsored Jake's duck, as well as one for his sibling, said that in the end it's about supporting EXPAND and what it does for the people of Boulder.

"I'm a little disappointed there is no water and so are the kids," she said, "But we're happy to donate to the cause."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or rubinoj@dailycamera.com