Kingston Elementary School second-grader Dominic Walker was confident that his duck was going to win the 15th annual Great Genoa Duck Race on Sunday afternoon.
However, it wasn’t meant to be, as the 7-year-old’s plastic duck didn’t cross the finish line first. He still enjoyed the afternoon weather while playing games and riding a pony at the family event.
“I’d feel happy if I won, but I’m having fun. There are a lot of things to do here, and I liked seeing all the ducks,” he said.
Thousands of plastic ducks raced down a portion of the Kishwaukee River at Genoa’s Carroll Park as a fundraiser for local community organizations. Ducks were available to buy, and each duck was assigned a ticket number that corresponded with its buyer.
The duck race now is part of Genoa’s Volkfest weekend, which is sponsored by the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit organization Kishwaukee Valley Wanderers.
The weekend kicked off with live music in the park Friday, continued Saturday with a morning Volksmarch and craft beer tent, and culminated Sunday with family-friendly activities and the duck race.
“[The duck race] is fun for all ages, and it’s multigenerational,” said Cortney Strohacker, executive director of the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s become one of our hometown traditions, and people look forward to it every year. It’s also unique to Genoa, and it’s nice because the race takes advantage of our natural resources and brings people to the park.”
The Volksfest and duck race continues to grow every year, with hundreds of residents from Genoa-Kingston and other communities. Genoa Mayor Mark Vicary said he thought this weekend’s event had the biggest attendance he’s ever seen.
“It’s a good draw for families, and it brings everyone together,” he said. “This weekend goes back to an older time when families got together and just enjoyed each other’s company.
You don’t often get events like this in bigger communities, and here everybody knows everybody.”
The Genoa-Kingston High School marching band performed in the park and hosted “duck bingo,” which was a new addition this year. Genoa resident Jean Reiss came out to support her daughter, who is in the band, and also bought two ducks.
“This event builds community and it gets people out. I also like to support local businesses,” she said.
Katie Appleby of Genoa helped serve beer at the craft beer tent Saturday and said she loves to volunteer during the weekend’s festivities because she wants to give back to the community.
“It makes you feel good to be a part of something,” she said. “This event has grown and continues to get better and better. It’s fun to see everyone come out, and it makes you proud to be a part of this community.”
The Genoa-Kingston High School mascot, Cogsley the duck, even made an appearance. Emily Prickett of Genoa wore the costume and said she had fun mingling with the children.
“It’s awesome to connect to the community during such a fun weekend,” she said. “The duck race is part of our history, and it’s a Genoa tradition. People always look forward to it, and it’s such a blast.”
Megan Murphy, a guest who was staying at the Genoa House, won first prize, while second place went to Mr. DeVito’s class at Genoa Elementary School. Prairie State Winery’s duck finished third.
This year’s “laziest duck” was bought by Genoa resident Linda Bridger. Each winner received a cash prize.