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Ducks on the Chicago River bring wave of donations

Sun-Times file photo

Nearly 60,000 rubber ducks caused an unusual traffic jam Thursday on the Chicago River.

For the 11th year, Special Olympics Illinois hosted the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby. The rubber racing ducks — “adopted” by individuals and teams — were dumped into the river from a truck on the Columbus Drive bridge.

“It was amazing how many ducks were in the water,” said Allie Reninger, a Darling Duckling sales team member. As this year’s Duck Ambassador, Reninger plucked the first-place duck out of the water.

The 22-year-old has won over 50 medals in her 16 years of competition. She wore her first and latest medals to the race.

Of her first medal, for track and field, she said, “It’s important because when I was 5, I was not able to walk.” She won her latest at a state-level volleyball competition.

Allie Reninger, 22, this year’s duck ambassador, is a member of the “Darling Ducklings” sales team and a Special Olympics athlete. | Natalie Watts/Sun-Times
Allie Reninger, 22, this year’s duck ambassador, is a member of the “Darling Ducklings” sales team and a Special Olympics athlete. | Natalie Watts/Sun-Times

The festivities kicked off at 10 a.m. outside the Wrigley Building, 400 N. Michigan Ave., with music, games, and of course, duck adoptions. Donations ranged between $5 for a single duck to $1,000 for 240. All proceeds benefit Special Olympics Illinois.

According to the derby’s website, 57,153 were ducks adopted.

Passersby played bean-bag toss, took pictures with a giant inflatable duck and had their faces painted.

Joyce Seabloom, a derby volunteer for six years, said she creates duck-themed merchandise with a twist. This year’s theme, “Ooh la ducky,” had a French flair.

All the proceeds go to benefit Special Olympics Illinois, she said.

Kids crowded the railing of the Chicago Riverwalk as the race got underway about 1 p.m.

A firehose pushed the ducks west from the Columbus Drive bridge toward the Wrigley Building, where five ducks claimed victory.

To the owner of the first-place duck: a new Chevrolet.