Tuesday, January 18, 2022

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Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it


The Great American Duck Race is a fun feature of the Des Moines Boat, Sports and Travel Show that’s coming to Hy-Vee Hall Jan. 18-20.

The Great American Duck Race is a fun feature of the Des Moines Boat, Sports and Travel Show that’s coming to Hy-Vee Hall Jan. 18-20.

All right ya’ll, stop ducking around and let’s get serious about the races — duck races, that is. It’s that time of year again when the Des Moines Boat, Sports and Travel Show invades central Iowa and transforms what would be another mundane winter weekend into the place to be for wet and wild action. Folks will flock in from around the state to have the chance to race the finest fowls in the Great American Duck Race.

The Great American Duck Races started in 1980 in the small town of Deming, N.M. Like the pioneers who moved west in the pursuit of new beginnings, the folks in Deming knew keeping oneself entertained is as important as any job that needs done. Looking for good, clean fun in an otherwise average small town, folks in the southern part of New Mexico put out the word: Anyone who happened to have a duck and wanted to put it in a duck race, bring it down for a chance at winning prize money.

Driving along the road toward Albuquerque, N.M., Robert Duck heard this call through the radio waves. Sure, the money was a nice touch, but he relished the thought of being a part of such an event, especially since he had pet ducks. After placing third out of 175 entries, the decision to race was made, ol’ Duck had found his calling.

“I just thought it would be a funny thing to have the Ducks enter ducks,” said Duck. “My wife and I have always been very competitive, so we trained our ducks the best we knew how, considering we had never seen a duck race before.”


Even though that year was his first time seeing the races, it was enough for Duck to understand how the event worked and how to best train their ducks for next year. He brought down his “Magnificent Seven” the following year. Not only did Duck win this time, he dominated, with four of his ducks advancing to the finals. He would prove this wasn’t a fluke by winning 12 years in a row and garnering roughly $50,000 in prize money from duck-racing alone. Do the math, and that’s about 4,000 bucks a duck.

In the Des Moines races, ducks will be raced four at a time on water tracks. Each show lasts about 15 minutes and will feature four heat races and a final. The winner of each heat race will receive a duck whistle that quacks as a prize. There is no entry fee for the duck races, so once you’re in the Boat, Sport and Travel show, it’s all free.

“Probably the most animated kids that are screaming or what have you will be picked to race,” said Duck.                

It may be kids who get to participate in the races, but all who come out will be sure to have a good time watching. In addition to racing, Duck will explain to spectators how the duck races started and some fun facts on mallards, which Duck uses for racing. There will also be opportunities to get up close and interact with the waterfowl.                

Duck, his wife and their ducks tour the country, racing at various state fairs and outdoor shows.               

“It’s a lot of fun… Just me, my wife and 36 of our closest friends,” said Duck. CV

The 71st Annual Des Moines Boat, Sports and Travel Show takes over Hy-Vee Hall from 5-9 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $9 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 5.

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