The Great Topeka Duck Race makes a splash


Steven Dennis

The waters of Lake Shawnee were met with 10,000 rubber ducks, all bobbing their way toward the finish line Sept 16.

The Great Duck Race is an annual event conducted by SERTOMA (Service To Mankind). The event is inspired by a similar function in Phoenix, Arizona to raise money for a variety of groups by allowing community members to adopt a rubber duck to participate in a race. 

Each duck sports a unique number that is used to identify the adopter in the event that the duck finishes first, with the possibility of winning a prize for any one that wants to take a quack at adopting a duck.

“The first duck to cross the finish line wins the first prize, which this year is a $5000 diamond bracelet donated by Calhoun’s Jewels. We also have a chance for a million dollar prize, courtesy of Prairie Band Casino,” says Dan Hejtmanek of SERTOMA.

“We have put this duck race on every year primarily to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters, our primary beneficiary,” said Julie Hejtmanek of SERTOMA. “The rest of our proceeds go to providing hearing aides to those that can’t afford them. We have raised about $760,000 in the last 21 years, all brought right back to the community.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a long time partner of this occasion. This year they set up a station by the lake in the hopes of finding volunteers.

“With the money donated today, we can support matches,” said Elizabeth Sigualdson of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “We take a volunteer, anyone over 18, and match them up with a ‘Little’ in need of a mentor in their life.”

In addition to providing the means to bring good role models to those in need, as well as funds for organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in Topeka, The Great Topeka Duck Race brings an event that fits the bill for families to enjoy.

Those that attend the event were treated to live music provided by The Ric Barron Band, arts and crafts, opportunities to donate to good causes, and of course a mass of 10,000 rubber ducks floating along a race track placed on the lake, all with free admission. The only costs are for donations, merchandise and food. In short, there is no bill.

The Great Topeka Duck Race is a charming event born of the desire to foster organizations that bring prosperity to the community and provide an event that people can flock to. 

Though it has taken flight for now, it will most assuredly migrate back next year.