NORTHBROOK – With Northbrook’s 4th of July parade and fireworks celebration less than one week away, it’s time to make way for ducklings.
The village’s annual tradition of holding an Independence Day Rubber Ducky Race down the Chicago River tributary that runs through the center of town – affectionately known by locals as “The Creek” – will take place on the Village Green for the 15th year in a row.
The race will begin at the Shermer Avenue Bridge in downtown Northbrook at 11:30 a.m. after the Rotary’s annual 7:30 a.m. Breakfast in the Park. The two events, which merged 8 years ago, were designed to segue seamlessly into Northbrook’s annual 4th of July parade, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m., followed by village fireworks at dusk.
Organized each summer by the Rotary Club of Northbrook, proceeds from the sale of yellow rubber ducks and tickets to the pancake breakfast support the Rotary’s community grants program, vocational scholarships and global initiatives. Rotarian Alan Karzen, owner of Karzen Restoration, says the organization hopes to raise $15,000 from the race and breakfast.
“The money we raise goes right back out again each fiscal year,” said Karzen. “This year we gave away $30,000 to 16 local charities and $15,000 in vocational scholarships.”
As in years past, race day rubber ducks were sold throughout the village in weeks leading up to the 4th of July, including Starbucks, Waterway Carwash and the YMCA. A single duck can be purchased for $10, along with multiple ducks in “Quack Packs” of 3 for $25 or “Flocks” of 15 for $100. Ducks are also available for purchase at the Village Green on race day.
Organizers say approximately 4,200 ducks participated in the 2016 Rubber Ducky Race, a number they hope to match or surpass this year. All ducks are sold with one corresponding raffle ticket, each representing a chance to win more than $2,000 in donated cash and prizes.
“Our annual duck race is a ‘feel good’ fundraiser,” said Karzen. “Unlike the pancake breakfast, we have no expenses and no overhead. The two events complement each other nicely.”
As an extra feature added by organizers two years ago, Northbrook families can also participate in the Rotary’s pre-race Adopt & DUCKorate program, whereby ducks are purchased for $20 at The Book Bin on Church Street, decorated, and submitted with a fictional story page about the duck’s identity and life. The winning duck and story, to be announced June 30 at the North Suburban YMCA, will receive a trophy an invitation to march with local Rotarians in Northbrook’s annual parade.
The program is designed to introduce local children to community service by utilizing their imagination, creativity and writing skills to make an impact on the world, say organizers.
In the meantime, flocks of ornately decorated rubber ducks can be spotted on display around Northbrook in windows at The Book Bin, Waterway Car Wash and the YMCA.
The Book Bin owner, Allie Mengarelli, who has lived in Northbrook her whole life, said the Adopt & DUCKorate program has generated a noticeable buzz among customers who frequent her store, with many asking to purchase ducks to decorate at home.
“I remember the first duck race they had here in town … I bought ducks for my entire family,” said Mengarelli, who has 11 nieces and nephews living in the area. “It was wildly fun, and now it’s very much a part of the Northbrook 4th of July tradition.”