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Participants in the 25th annual Wildquack River Duck Festival parade make their way up to the river where soon after more than 3,500 toy ducks were released into the river. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)

Jackson holds 25th annual 'running of the ducks' fundraiser

JACKSON — Pamplona, Spain, has its bulls but this small community has its own annual, animal extravaganza, recently celebrating the 25th &#';running of the ducks&#'; as part of the Wildquack River Duck Festival.

The unofficial kickoff to the summer season, the festival, which is sponsored by the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, is built around a fundraiser that benefits local agencies, among them the Jackson Fire Department, said Kathleen Driscoll, the chamber’s executive director.

She explained that plastic toy ducks — which are individually marked and “purchased” — are dumped into the Wildcat River and that the first ducks down Jackson Falls and over the “finish” line receive cash and other prizes.

When, in their descent down the Wildcat River — temporarily renamed the ‘Wildquack’ for the event — the ducks get snagged in eddies or behind rocks, a group of highly-trained, “duck wranglers” are ready with long plastic sticks to guide them back into the stream.

Centered in Jackson Park, this year’s duck festival featured more than 3,500 ducks and offered food and game vendors as well as “roaming train rides.”

The festivities included a duck-themed parade that proceeded past a giant, inflatable duckling; and several special presentations, all again overseen Master of Ceremonies Rob Clark, who for a fifth year was joined by his son, Andrew.

The elder Clark, who is the longtime town moderator in neighboring Bartlett, said he has volunteered at all but one of the duck festivals, noting that the inaugural “running of the ducks” saw only 500 ducks, with the number continually growing over the years.

It also grew from just a release of ducks into a festival, Clark added, and, with one exception, has always been held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. That only exception was in 2013, Clark said, when the ‘Wildquack,’ swollen with rain from multiple storms, was running “wicked fast” and for the sake of safety, the duck festival was rescheduled to Independence Day.

Ironically, that duck festival was also among the hottest on record, said Andrew Clark, who recalled that on the opposite side of the temperature ledger, one of the coldest was in 1992 when, according to his parents, he was just days old but was bundled up as a duck and brought to the festival when the temperature was a chilly 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

jkoziol@newstote.com

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