Great Duck Derby helps send island children to D.C.
On Saturday, April 30, 1,000 rubber ducks will slide off Robb Roach’s duck boat, Just Ducky, into a one-lane waterway. This duck derby, dubbed the “first annual,” will put Jamestown on par with Wickford and other seaside towns where the rubber ducks have already tread water, says Lawn Avenue School parent Susan Baccari.
Prizes go to the swiftest 30 ducks, but in this race, everyone will be a winner, including the last little ducky to bob across the finish line, according to Baccari. That is because proceeds from Jamestown’s Great Duck Derby will help the children afford this week’s eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C. According to Baccari, the trip organizer, 45 students left for the nation’s capital early this morning and will return on Sunday afternoon.
Their jam-packed trip includes visits to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian. The field trip will also include a tour of the White House, which was arranged by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
This is the fourth year the eighth-grade class has gone to Washington, D.C. The “adventure” punctuates their last year in the Jamestown public schools, said Lawn Avenue School Principal Kathy Almanzor.
“Eighth grade is the year they study U.S. government and a lot of what they have learned comes to life,” she said. The trip is sponsored by the school, chaperoned by the teachers and organized by the parents and amounts to “an excellent experience socially and educationally,” Almanzor said.
But this year, many parents faced a sacrifice finding the $525 fee per child for the bus, hotel and meals, Baccari said.
“It’s been difficult with the economy for many families,” she said, so a group of parents brainstormed fundraising ideas. They also wanted to finance incidentals, like breakfast and lunch on the ride down and a Washington pizza party.
“We are always selling cookies, pies and popcorn, and after a while they just are not appealing to both the kids and the public,” Baccari said. The parents batted around different ideas until Luigina Curran came up with a duck race. Each student was asked to sell 20 ducks to cut $100 off the trip price, Baccari said. If they sold 40 ducks, they saved $200. At the minimum, parents saved $50 and most managed to save $100.
So far, according to Baccari, the students have sold about 1,000 ducks, while the parents have worked out the race-day logistics.
Roach will release the ducks into an oil boom, courtesy of Jim Archibald. Jack Christy will deliver last-minute entries to Roach and Chris Varrecchione. Christy will also kayak out on Mackerel Cove to keep the ducks in line. The students stepped up and sold the ducks, learning some lessons about working toward a goal, helping others and the value of community, Baccari said.
Along with the duck sales, Churchill & Banks, the Jamestown Women’s Club, Trattoria Simpatico, Monreau & Murphy, Nardolillo Funeral Home, Lila Delman, the Jamestown Fire Department and the Jamestown Education Foundation helped with expenses for the trip and for the derby.
On Sunday, for example, four youngsters volunteered to stand behind a “duck table” at Secret Garden and sell $5 chances on the rubber ducks. That wasn’t the first effort for any of them. Natalie Toland, 13, and Shelby Coppinger, 14, also had worked the parking lot at McQuade’s Marketplace and Cathryn Jamieson Salon. They made up songs to attract the customers’ attention, Natalie said. Other students went to Jamestown Wine & Spirits and Grapes and Gourmet. The youngsters worked hard, Baccari said.
“They even ventured off the island to Pastry Gourmet and Wickford Liquors.”
Baccari’s son, Dimitri Varrecchione, 14, sold 100 ducks, even though he had already paid for his trip. Asked what made his “duck pitch” such a hit, Dimitri quipped, “People like to talk to me. I seal the deal with that.”
His twin, Antonio, estimated he sold almost 100 ducks. His first 20 sales went to family and friends, but then he worked the duck stands, like the Sunday display at Secret Garden.
“We just wait until someone comes over,” he said. Antonio hoped to visit part of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. “We’re studying the Holocaust,” he said. A walk though the children’s exhibit, “David’s Story,” is on the agenda, Baccari said.
Natalie expected the best part of the trip would come the night the students board a boat for a school dance.
“It’s their first trip without their parents,” teacher Nick Alfred said. “They definitely look forward to it.” Alfred and teacher Kristen DeSantis will accompany the students, as they experience “a bigger city than Jamestown,” he said.