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A rubber duck is a toy shaped like a stylized duck, generally yellow with a flat base. It may be made of rubber or rubber-like material such as vinyl plastic. The yellow rubber duck has achieved an iconic status in Western pop culture and is often symbolically linked to bathing. Various novelty variations of the toy are produced.
The history of the rubber duck is linked to the emergence of rubber manufacturing in the late 19th century. The earliest rubber ducks were made from harder rubber.
Jim Henson popularized rubber ducks in 1970, performing the songs "Rubber Duckie" and "DUCKIE" as Ernie, a popular Muppet from Sesame Street. Ernie frequently spoke to his duck and carried it with him in other segments of the show. On a special occasion, Little Richard performed the song.
C.W. McCall's hit song Convoy, (and the movie and novel it inspired) are narrated from the viewpoint of a character who replaced the bulldog hood ornament on his Mac truck with a bathtub toy and used the on-air handle of "Rubber Duck".
Besides the ubiquitous yellow rubber duck with which most people are familiar, there have been numerous novelty variations on the basic theme, including character ducks representing professions, politicians, or licensed individual celebrities. There are also ducks that glow in the dark, change colour, have interior LED illumination, or include a wind-up engine that enables them to "swim". In 2001, The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper reported that Queen Elizabeth II has a rubber duck in her bathroom that wears an inflatable crown. The duck was spotted by a workman who was repainting her bathroom. The story prompted sales of rubber ducks in the United Kingdom to increase by 80% for a short period.
Rubber ducks are collected by a small number of enthusiasts. The 2007 Guinness World Record for World's Largest Rubber Duck Collection stood at 1,439 different rubber ducks, and was awarded to Charlotte Lee.
Rubber duck races, also known as derby duck races, have been used as a method of fundraising for organizations worldwide. People donate money to the organization by sponsoring a duck. At the end of the fundraising drive, all of the ducks are dumped into a waterway, with the first to float past the finish line winning a prize for its sponsor.
There are hundreds of races held in the USA and internationally. The largest race in the United States is the annual Freestore Foodbank Rubber Duck Regatta in Cincinnati, Ohio. First run in 1994, the Rubber Duck Regatta now features over 100,000 ducks raced to raise money for the organization. Since its beginning in 1994 the Rubber Duck Regatta in Cincinnati Ohio has raised over $4.6 million and over $500,000 alone last year.
The annual Aspen Ducky Derby was first run by the Rotary Club of Aspen, Colorado in 1991. The derby now features 30,000 ducks and takes place each August in Aspen's Rio Grande Park. Through its past 20 years, the Aspen Ducky Derby has raised more than $2.3 million to benefit 65 nonprofit groups.
One of the more famous rubber duck races is the Great Knoxville Rubber Duck Race. This race received attention when the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that it was a lottery, which stopped the race for a few years. After the state amended its constitution to allow lotteries with special exceptions, the race was reinstituted. The Derby Duck race sees over 40,000 ducks race to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Tennessee valley.
A famous rubber duck race is the Halifax Duck Derby. This race has 10,000 rubber ducks in the Halifax Harbour along Bishops Landing. There is a grand prize of $1 million Canadian dollars; other prizes include a trip to anywhere in Canada, large screen TVs, and more. This race has been very successful in raising money and awareness for its organizations.
The Lumsden Duck Derby is a Labour Day tradition in the town of Lumsden, Saskatchewan, 31 km northwest of Regina. Founded in 1988 to help the town raise funds for a new ice rink, nowadays the Derby races 25 000 rubber ducks down a stretch of the Qu'Appelle River and features a grand prize of CAD$1 million. The town makes a day out of it, with a pancake breakfast, bands and other entertainments, kids' activities, and a "parade to the post."
The Great Brisbane Duck Race is held on the Brisbane River each year to raise funds for the PA Research Foundation. The 100-metre (330 ft) race saw 30,000 rubber ducks enter the race in 2011. The PA Research Foundation also holds a Team Duck Race Challenge where groups are invited to raise funds and participate in either the motorised or non-motorised Team Duck Race with a large 26-centimetre (10 in) tall rubber duck that teams can decorate, brand and modify.
One other race was conducted in Australia in January 1988. It was run from the "High-level bridge" to the "Low-level bridge" near Katherine, Northern Territory on the Australia Day long weekend. Acting on behalf of the town's Bicentennial Committee, Royal Australian Air Force officers Andrew Cairns and Jock MacGowan constructed the release cage from PVC pipe, purchased and numbered the ducks, printed tickets, and even arranged a helicopter flypast.
In Stockbridge, Edinburgh since 1988, the Stockbridge Community Festival has held the annual Stockbridge Duck Race to raise money for local charities. 1000 rubber ducks are released into the Water of Leith at the Stockbridge to float downstream to the finishing post at the Falshaw Bridge. The 2010 race was memorable for a sudden rain shower at the finish line. The 2011 race was held on 3 July with proceeds going to local charities Stockbridge House & St. Columba's Hospice.
On 31 August 2008, the Great British Duck Race was held near Hampton Court Palace in London. The race broke the world record for the number of ducks used together, with a total of 250,000. The ducks used in the race were a bright blue color, after stewards in the previous year faced problems from spectators throwing their own ducks into the water.
Each year, on Easter Monday, a duck race is organised in Glenridding by the local mountain rescue team to raise funds. Another is the Manchester Duck Race, held at Spinningfields on the River Irwell each Good Friday, with several thousand ducks.
During a Pacific storm on 10 January 1992, three 40-foot containers holding 29,000 Friendly Floatees plastic bath toys from a Chinese factory were washed off a ship. Two-thirds of the ducks floated south and landed three months later on the shores of Indonesia, Australia, and South America. The remaining 10,000 ducks headed north to Alaska and then completed a full circle back near Japan, caught up in the North Pacific Gyre current as the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Many of the ducks then entered the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia and were trapped in the Arctic ice. They moved through the ice at a rate of one mile per day, and in 2000 they were sighted in the North Atlantic. The movement of the ducks had been monitored by American oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer. Bleached by sun and seawater, the ducks and beavers had faded to white, but the turtles and frogs had kept their original colours.
Between July and December 2003, The First Years Inc. offered a $100 US savings bond reward to anybody who recovered a Floatee in New England, Canada or Iceland. More of the toys were recovered in 2004 than in any of the preceding three years. However, still more of these toys were predicted to have headed eastward past Greenland and make landfall on the southwestern shores of the United Kingdom in 2007.
These ducks were the subject of Donovan Hohn's 2011 book Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea.
World's largest rubber duck
The world's largest rubber duck was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman in 2007, measuring 16.5 × 20 × 32 meters/54 x 65 x 105 feet and weighing about 1,323 pounds/600 kg. Since 2007, several ducks of various sizes created by Hofman have been on display in countries and territories such as Amsterdam (Netherlands), Lommel (Belgium), Osaka (Japan), Sydney (Australia), São Paulo (Brazil), Hong Kong (China) and Kaohsiung (Taiwan) until 20 Oct 2013. Then it will go on display in the United States.
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