Retiring Head Of Eagle Rock School To Launch The Ducks At The Duck Race This Saturday
The man pulling the rip cord dumping thousands of little rubber ducks into Fall River launching the 24th edition of the Estes Park Duck Race on May 5th at Nicky’s Steakhouse will be the man who has headed one of the largest sellers of duck race adoption forms over the last ten years – Robert Burkhardt, Head of School, at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center.
“We couldn’t think of a more appropriate person to be given the honor of launching the ducks than Robert,” said Kris “Big Duck” Hazelton, chair of the Estes Park Rotary Club’s Duck Race Committee. “Eagle Rock is nearly always the number one seller of duck adoptions each year and with Robert retiring at the end of August, we figured this would be a good retirement present.”
Over the last ten years, Eagle Rock has raised more than $100,000 for the school’s Graduate Fund from participating in the Duck Race. “We’ve been selling duck race tickets since ’91,” explained Burkhardt, “but in terms of us getting money and being on the card (one of the participating organization), it’s been only since about 2002, so it’s been 10 years. See, we’re slow learners out here. It took a while to figure out we might be able to (make some money), but we finally figured it out.” Last year, Eagle Rock received more than $11,400 from the Duck Race and still holds the record for the largest number of duck adoptions sold in any one year – 849 adoptions in 2007. That translates to $16,980 worth of adoptions.
Burkhardt said Eagle Rock staff and students sell duck adoptions primarily out of town. “We don’t compete with anyone in Estes Park. We may sell a few tickets in town, but New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago – we sell a lot of tickets there. We like selling tickets without competing with the other 60+ organizations” listed on the adoption form.
As an incentive to spur sales, the school offers a $100 cash prize to the student and staff member who sell the most. Burkhardt says this year’s winners are Cindy Elkins, the art teacher, and Sandra Natal, a student from Bronx. Each will receive $100. Burkhardt doesn’t participate in the competition. “That would be unfair,” he said, “but I buy $200 worth of ducks for my wife and kids, so I have never won anything.”
After 22-years at Eagle Rock (he was on board before the place was even built), Burkhardt claims he’ll be “totally retired” by the first of September and will continue to live in Estes Park. “We love it here and we’ll be here for a while.”
And he’s already thinking on down the road, or the river in the case of the Duck Race, and his role as a member of the Rotary Club. “Maybe we should start a month earlier selling tickets. It would give people a little more time. Perhaps, more year round publicity to buy tickets so that people in town in the summer – when we get the most people here — they could buy a duck race ticket. I think that’s a lost market. We could sell $10,000, $20,000 worth of duck race tickets in the summer just out at Performance Park alone. It’s worth thinking about.”
It’s good food for thought from the chief “duck adopter” who this year becomes the “duck launcher” for the May 5th Estes Park Duck Race.
Ducks can be adopted for $20 each from any of the 65 participating organizations who benefit from the Duck Race. Or you can buy them online at www.epduckrace.org for $21. One dollar covers the cost of credit card usage.
Activities for the Duck Race begin at 11:00 a.m. when the Riverside Ramblers begin playing Dixieland outside Nicky’s Steakhouse and Resort. After the “Duck Song” and the National Anthem performed by the Estes Park Singers, a student singing group, Burkhardt pulls the release cord and the ducks drop into Fall River at 1:00 p.m. and begin floating to town. When they arrive is purely a guess. “We need some rain and more water in the river,” exclaimed Hazelton, “otherwise those ducks may be walking to town.” It all depends on snow melt and rainfall. One year the first duck arrived in 35-minutes. Another year, it took three-and-a-half hours for the first duck to show up at the finish line outside the Wheel Bar in Riverside Plaza.
That’s where the Estes Park Band Boosters will be holding a bake sale. Dick Orleans entertains from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. The Jug Band performs from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. There will be balloon art, Bruiser the Dog, and Local Herd Caricatures will also be hand as the ducks cross the finish line.
“So, adopt a duck, come to Nicky’s as we honor Robert Burkhardt, and then settle in for a lot of fun at the finish line,” said Hazelton. “The Duck Race is always a lot of fun regardless of where you are along Fall River. But you can’t win a prize without a duck in the water.”
Duck Race Entertainment Schedule
11:00 a.m. – Riverside Ramblers – Nicky’s
12:00 p.m. – Estes Park Singers – Nicky’s
1:00 p.m. – Duck Drop – Nicky’s
1:00-4 p.m. – Balloon Art – Riverside Plaza
1:00-4 p.m. – Band Boosters bake sale – Riverside Plaza
1:00-2:30 p.m. – Bruiser the Dog – Riverside Plaza
1:00-3 p.m. – The Jug Band – Riverside Plaza
1:00-4 p.m. – Local Herd Caricatures – Riverside Plaza
2:00-4 p.m. – Dick Orleans – Riverside Plaza
???? – First Duck arrives!