Valley Morning Star
Great American Duck Race a RioFest favorite
By Amanda Harris
Harlingen- The crowd waited in anticipation for the Great American Duck Race to begin Saturday at Duck Race Headquarters.
In the background, a duck-like voice was singing, “I’m the disco duck.”
The “Headquarters,” set up on the RioFest grounds at Fair Park, consisted of two sets of bleachers around a small pool with four 16-foot-long lanes and a caged area containing a group of mallard ducks.
Every seat was filled and there were others standing around the perimeter of the area before the 5 p.m. show began.
Then Robert Duck- that’s his actual name- walked near the pool to begin the duck races and the crowd cheered.
There were five shows Saturday with four heat races and one final race at each show, Duck said.
Four children were chosen from the audience for the first four races, and the winners competed in the final race.
During each round, Duck gave the racing ducks names, such as Obama and Hillary during the “political race,” and cartoon names during another race.
The children each held a duck at the end of the lane and released their duck into the pool.
Madison Kowalski,13, and Melissa Guajardo, 11, competed in two different races at the 5 p.m. show.
“I acted crazy and raised my hands,” Kowalski said about how she was chosen to participate.
Kowalski said the duck race was her favorite part of RioFest.
“It was hard to hold (the duck),” Guajardo said.
Six-year-old Laney Garcia competed in one of the races with the help of her mom, Gloria.
“It was soft,” Laney Garcia said.
In between the races, Duck told the crowd interesting facts about mallard ducks, and said his show is the only duck racing show in the country to educate the audience.
Duck, from Bosque Farms, N.M., owns 85 mallards and brought 33 to RioFest, he said.
Each duck is trained to race, but his training methods “are a trade secret,” Duck said.
Every year, Duck buys 100 freshly hatched ducks, trains each one and keeps the fastest 25, he said.
The rest are released into the wild, he said.
Duck said he has won more than $50,000 racing his ducks in New Mexico duck races since 1980.