The Rotary Duck Derby has become one of Josephine County’s most important fund-raising efforts, bringing in more than $1.3 million to help the county’s children.
Rotarians and retail outlets sell duck “adoptions” for $10 per race entry and generous sponsors pay the cost of the race itself, so the maximum amount of proceeds can go to the cause. Ducks are adopted from July to mid-September, when the race itself is held. Adopted ducks are dumped into the Rogue River from the Grants Pass Parkway and float down to Riverside Park. The first dozen or so ducks reaching the trap win their adopters a prize, with the current grand prize being $15,000 toward purchase or lease of a car from one of Grants Pass’ five new car dealers.
The proceeds from the 2017 race, on Sept. 16, were split between 4-H, for new, badly needed livestock pens, and a parks foundation, to put a “sprayground” in Riverside Park’. ln its 14 years, the Rotary Duck Derby has paid for development of Morrison Park in Grants Pass, construction of all-weather tracks at the four public high schools, building of a new Josephine County Food Bank storehouse, teen centers at the Boys & Girls Club and a covered amphitheater at Wildlife lmages.
The proceeds from the next 3 year’s races have now been determined. The club presidents decided that 25 percent of the money will go to improve Jubilee Park in Cave Junction. Improvements will include moving the light poles on the baseball field from inside the fence to outside the fence (for safety reasons), creating a dog park and adding to the existing walking path. Most of the cost will be in fences. The other 75 percent will go to start renovation of the riding arena at the fairgrounds. Every local high school equestrian team and many other groups use the arena for practice and events. But now it’s fallen into serious disrepair. A tarp has to be spread across the roof during the winter to make the arena usable. The total project will cost $504,000. The Rotary has agreed to give 75 percent of this year’s Duck Derby proceeds and all the proceeds of its 2019 and 2020 Duck Derbys to this project, as long as satisfactory progress is being made in annual reports to the presidents. Fairgrounds people are confident that this show of local support will attract grants and other money to the project. A renovated arena, in turn, might be able to accommodate more family-oriented events.