FAIRMONT – On Saturday, 802 rubber ducks floated down the Monongahela River, racing for prizes including a $500 first place reward.
Although the race took more than 10 minutes because of the slow current, the event, the Lucky Duck FamFest at Palatine Park, managed to attract a crowd of viewers, who watched in hopes their duck would win and spent time playing games provided by Marion County agencies.
“It was always a dream of mine to bring it to Marion County,” said Jone Webb, president of the board for the Connecting Link. “We wanted to create an event because all of the nonprofits deal with low income, families that have a hard time working together to provide entertainment for their kids.”
This is the second annual Lucky Duck FamFest in Fairmont, returning thanks to the success of last year’s inaugural festival. Just like last year, the Connecting Link sold rubber ducks to hopeful race winners which will help monetarily support the organizations that came to the fest to also be a part.
“Each one of the agencies is responsible for having a game or an activity or something that the kids can do,” Webb said. “Every vendor is here to support family, fun and togetherness, and that’s the whole goal of the day.”
Some of the nonprofits included organizations like the Marion County Public Library, the Bikers Against Child Abuse, Blueprints, the United Way, Union Mission and others, with some companies located in the area pitching in with some activities as well.
Because the fest allowed for local agencies to set up their own tents and activity booths, they were able to all gain attention in their own way, rather than having to have an event of their own which could be detrimental to community collaboration.
“It’s a collaborative fundraising event,” said Chris Nielsen, executive director of Learning Options Inc. “Because all of us depend so much on fundraisers, doing them individually, there is an overlap. If we can all get together and do the same event, there is no duplication of services, and we all get to say ‘Hey, here we are and this is what we do.’”
The Soup Opera brought a sandbox to the fest, which allowed kids to play and build their own sand structures. Misty Tennant, the director of the Soup Opera, agreed that having a singular event that showcases several organizations at once is beneficial to the
“It’s just an extra way to get our name out there and support us,” Tennant said. “We can all work together, it’s good when we can all do that.”
Each activity provided came free to the attendees of the fest, but people purchased groups and groups of rubber ducks which equaled donations to the agencies. At 1 p.m., a truck dumped all 802 ducks off the High Level Bridge, releasing a yellow cloud of rubber into the current. During the wait for that race, another competition had people counting down the seconds, that being a pizza eating contest which also returned last year. Some spectators stayed throughout the day for all these activities, while eating, drinking and listening to live music all the while.
For Webb, seeing this level of fun and entertainment in the area was heartwarming. Webb retired from her position as executive director of the Connecting Link last year, but the agency is one she can’t truly leave. To get to continue to help host the Lucky Duck FamFest and contribute to the funding of multiple organizations is a good reflection on the work she performed throughout her career.
“I can’t retire my heart,” Webb said. “I love seeing this park filled with people and families. I love the fact that we can bring this to Fairmont and showcase what Marion County can do, and how our nonprofits can come together and pull off a successful event.”