YARDLEY BOROUGH >> As 500 rubber duckies simultaneously splashed down into the Delaware Canal from the Letchworth Avenue Bridge Saturday afternoon cheers filled the air.
The Great Yardley Duck Race began with a splash, sending screams of excitement reverberating through a crowd of mostly young families lining the historic Delaware Canal Towpath and numbering in the hundreds.
“I think I see mine,” shouted an excited youngster pointing toward a patch of yellow duckies floating by.
“Mommy, mommy. Look, look,” said another after catching a glimpse of their decorated duck bobbing midway through the flock.
Meanwhile, a volunteer was extending a boat paddle up toward the metal framing of the Letchworth Avenue bridge where two of the duckies got stuck during the initial splash down.
After being freed by the paddle, the ducks quickly joined the mass of yellow floating down the Delaware Canal as youngsters, parents and grandparents skimmed the water with their eyes looking for their “feathered” friends.
Not far away, a group of Canada geese had staked out a spot along the canal, figuring on a quiet Saturday evening. They didn’t seem happy with all the extra commotion, but they had little choice but to go with the flow.
Meanwhile, back at the race, the yellow ducks - some decorated and others not - continued the journey southward, bobbing up and down in the murky water.
Shouts of excitement erupted from the crowd as youngsters jumped up and down and parents caught the unusual spectacle on their iPhones.
The slow, but steady race took a little less than an hour to complete as groups of ducks moved southward on the canal buoyed by an open waste gate at Lock Five that provided the push forward the ducks needed to reach the finish line.
On their journey, some ducks got hung up on debris and needed a helping hand to move them on their way while others enjoyed the leisurely float to the finish line unencumbered by any obstacles.
The first to finish was a duck entered by Newtown resident Cathy Hill. Not far behind in second place was a duck entered by Finn Brady of Yardley. And crossing the finish line in third place was a duck entered by Emma Kayris.
All three winners received some very “duckie” prizes, reported Susan Taylor, the executive director of the Friends of the Delaware Canal, and, of course, “quacking” rights for winning the race.
By far, this was the biggest duck race ever put on by the Friends, which hosted its last big race four years ago, according to Taylor.
“It was really neat that a vast majority of people decorated their ducks, knew where their duck was in the water and was cheering them on,” said Taylor.
“I really like it when the parents and kids come to the table to select their ducks and decorate them,” she added. “And some took them home to train them in the sink.”
On hand to witness the event was State Representative Perry Warren who watched his first duck race unfold along the towpath.”
“It was great and just hours before the Belmont Stakes. It was on the water and a little bit slower, but very crowded. And everyone loved it,” he said. “What a great way to bring attention to the Delaware Canal and one of Pennsylvania’s wonderful parks.”
The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Delaware Canal with proceeds benefiting ongoing efforts to restore, preserve and improve the canal and its surroundings.