Fifteen-month-old Konnor Kabanuk sat in his plastic scooter Saturday on the banks of Dry Creek looking out over the water as nearly 7,000 yellow rubber duckies bobbed past on a sunny but chilly morning.
Konnor and his father, Kody Kabanuk, mother Maya Kabanuk and grandmother Karrie Kabanuk, all of Homer, were among about 200 people who gathered for the annual CornDucky Derby, an annual fundraiser for youth-oriented groups.
“It’s awesome,” Kody Kabanuk said. “It’s a great turnout. Just a little chilly.”
Attendance was down from about 1,000 in years before the pandemic. The race was also broadcast live on Facebook.
The event, held for the 25th year, set a record for selling tickets to let a record 6,709 ducks free from a corral at a bridge under Hamlin Street to run about 100 yards to a footbridge in Suggett Park.
The Cortland Community Service Club, which has a sole function of planning and executing the derby, has raised neary $365,000 in the past 17 years, Tom Dumas, the derby announcer told the crowd before the event.
“We weren’t expecting to set a record,” club member Chris Ryan said afterward. “We did not expect to get anywhere where we were two years ago.”
The previous record set two years ago was 6,478 ducks sold.
With an ongoing pandemic, event organizers this year did not encourage attendance and urged safe distancing protocols for those who came.
Larry and Margaret Snogles of Homer attended wearing duck-related attire. They each had small yellow ducks on their clothing and Larry Snogles had a couple on the brown derby he was wearing. The couple said they come almost every year, but their children, the youngest of whom is now 25, did not attend this year.
“It’s a worthwhile cause,” Larry Snogles said.
Tickets sold for $5, each paying for a rubber ducky to be included in the race. Fifteen sponsors contributed $200 each to cover marketing and other costs. All of the ticket sales paid for the $3,785 in prizes and the balance to youth-oriented groups. Erin Brown of Cortland’s duck finished first, giving her the top prize of $2,500.
Many high school athletic teams and other groups sold tickets and kept half of the revenue, said club member Dennis Stratton. Grants are also awarded to several youth groups or activities that are youth-focused, said Chris Ryan, one of the organizers.
Last year, the event was postponed until September, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With Dry Creek dry at that time of the year, organizers placed the rubber ducks in a portable pond and randomly selected the winners, Ryan said.