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updated: 7/30/2011 9:39 AM

Ducks take their marks at DuPage County Fair

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  • Crowd members at the DuPage County Fair get to release the ducks at the start of each race and the person with the winning duck gets a prize.

      Crowd members at the DuPage County Fair get to release the ducks at the start of each race and the person with the winning duck gets a prize.
    Courtesy of Robert Duck

 
By Meghan Keenan
mkeenan@dailyherald.com

Once upon a time, Robert Duck was a regular guy, a jeweler by profession.

And then he heard about an event that would change his life, though he didn't know it at the time: A duck race.

He decided to participate in that first race in Deming, NM -- on a lark, maybe -- and it turned out he was a lucky duck. His namesake waterfowl was successful and no one could resist the story of a man named Duck who won a duck race. He was invited to be on "The Tonight Show" and his photo appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

And that's when it hit him.

"It was so much fun for me I thought, there's got to be some way to make a living out of this," he said.

It would take Duck 12 years of consecutive wins with a purse totaling more than $50,000 before Duck felt ready to follow his calling. He sold his jewelry business in 1999 and started his own duck races.

Duck's Great American Duck Race is entertaining audiences this weekend at the DuPage County Fair, running through Sunday, July 31, at the fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton.

Duck and his wife travel to state and county fairs nationwide with their duck race show hoping to entertain and educate children and adults, he said. This is their third visit to the DuPage County Fair.

The Great American Duck Race invites audience members to take part in the competition. Sixteen children and adults are chosen during each show to release the ducks on the racetracks, and prizes are given to the winners of each race.

The water tracks are 2 feet wide by 16 feet long. Four ducks race at a time and there are five races during each show -- four heat races and a final race.

"One of our ducks holds the record for world's fastest," Duck said. "He finished the race in 83 one-hundredths of a second."

There is an educational portion to the show as well. Staff members from the international nonprofit group Ducks Unlimited present interesting facts about mallard ducks between the races.

Duck is confident that fairgoers will enjoy the shows.

"I guarantee you cannot watch a duck race without smiling," he assures. "When the kids are holding the ducks, you should see the smiles on their faces. It brings so much joy to people; it's a very rewarding job."

The Great American Duck Races are at 1, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. today and Sunday.

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