In a town known for its division of Ducks and Beavers fans, there are few folks here who aren't fans of the rubber yellow duckies that show up around this time each year.
Ducks went on sale this past weekend for the 2014 Rotary Duck Derby, an opportunity to buy a duck Ñ or more Ñ in the hope of winning prizes ranging from gift certificates, rafting trips and flights over Crater Lake to the grand prize, a $15,000 vehicle credit from one of five Grants Pass dealerships.
Prizes are won if the number for the duck purchased corresponds to one of the first dozen or so ducks who finish first in the official duck drop at noon on Sept. 20.
That's the day an expected 10,000 ducks will be dropped into the Rogue River from the Parkway Bridge at Baker Park. The ducks float downstream to the Riverside Park finish line. Winning ducks will be identified by the adoption paper number assigned to each of the ducks.
Although Josephine County Rotary Clubs have a goal of selling 10,000 ducks this year Ñ at an adoption price of $10 per duckling Ñ everyone who purchases one or more has a great chance of winning, said John McCafferty, a Rotary Club member who was hawking ducks at the Growers' Market Saturday.
"Everybody wins, because by buying a duck you are helping the food bank, so the food bank wins, too," McCafferty said.
Five-year-old Gracelyn Prulhiere, and her 22-month-old sister, Hayley, felt like winners as they showed off the rubber duckies they picked up Saturday at the market.
Mom, aka Michelle Prulhiere, says her daughter is a big-time duck fan.
"She's in love with ducks and has about six ducks from previous years," she said.
"No, nine," Gracelyn corrected as she snuggled next to the large inflatable duck beside McCafferty's duck adoption booth.
Prulhiere said she thinks the Duck Derby duck sales make for a great community fundraiser.
"The kids love the ducks, and it really helps the community," she said.
The Grants Pass Rotary Club Foundation has been helping the community with the Duck Derby for about 12 years. During that time, more than $1 million has been raised for community projects, such as the renovation of Morrison Park, and all-weather track installations at Grants Pass, North, Hidden Valley, and Illinois Valley high schools.
This year, as in the past few years, proceeds from the event will benefit the Josephine County Food Bank, said Dennis Roler, Rotarian and a spokesman for the 2014 Rotary Duck Derby.
Roler, who has been on the board of the food bank for nearly a decade, said the $250,000 Rotary has pledged to the food bank from this year's event will be put to good use.
The food bank, which distributes food to the Salvation Army, Methodist, ROC and other local food pantries, and provides food for about 12,000 people each month, will be moving its warehouse facility this fall to a new 10,000-square-foot warehouse next to its 2-acre garden at its Raptor Creek, Upper River Road location.
Moving to a new facility at that location will not only double the space for food storage but also save the food bank about $20,000 per year that it currently pays in rent, Roler said.
Josephine County Food Bank was awarded a $500,000 matching, federal community block grant to build the structure, which is set to begin construction in coming weeks and be finished by November.
Each duck sold between now and the Duck Derby will help finance the new facility for the food bank, and also help feed local adults and children in need.
Purchasing one $10 duck can help feed a child three healthy meals a day for two weeks, according to information provided by Roler.
Buying two ducks can help feed a family of four three healthy meals a day for one week, or a child for one month.
For those able to finance 25 ducks Ñ for $250 Ñ that helps purchase 1,250 pounds of food, enough to feed one person for almost a year.
Ducks can be adopted at the Growers' Market booth every Saturday between now and the derby, as well as at various locations throughout Grants Pass, including: Rogue Credit Union, the Daily Courier and KAJO/KLDR.
On Monday, Roler installed the derby's large inflatable rubber duck in front of the Courier for the duck's first of several one-week stints at local businesses to promote the event.
Although Roler grew up cheering for Oregon State, and isn't much of a Ducks fan otherwise, he says that for the next few months, he's a rubber ducks fan.
"This is such a great cause and it's so good to see the concrete projects the Duck Derby funds and be able to say, 'We did this,'" he said, adding, "I'm a fan of these ducks."
Reach reporter Ruth Longoria Kingsland at 541-474-3718 or email@example.com