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FFA camp hosting 20th annual AdironDuck Race this spring

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BELFORT — The Oswegatchie Educational Center this spring will celebrate two decades of duckiness.

“It’s a huge day,” said William Waite, program director at the Long Pond Road camp that hosts the annual AdironDuck Race and Pancake Breakfast.

The 20th installment of the race, in which a horde of rubber ducks races along a stretch of the Oswegatchie River, will be April 27.

An all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to noon, while the ducks will hit the water at 1 p.m.

While organizers aren’t planning a lot of special events for the milestone, they said they hope it continues to grow, as it has through its first 19 years.

“The first year we did this, we raced only 500 ducks,” Mr. Waite said.

That initial race, planned in conjunction with a previously ongoing pancake breakfast, brought in only 150 people, while the 2013 edition boasted 1,950 attendees, he said.

“We had cars parked down the road for the first time ever,” Mr. Waite said.

The camp had owned only 4,300 ducks, but it replaced them a couple of years ago with a “new flock” of 10,000, the maximum available for “adoption” at the race. Ducks can be adopted up to race time.

The adopters of the first 10 ducks to cross the gates will receive cash prizes, including a $2,000 grand prize.

New for 2014, Oswegatchie is committing to have $5,000 in cash prizes for the top finishers, rather than giving out donated items to some, Mr. Waite said.

“Everybody likes cash,” he said, adding that many door prizes still will be available.

Organizers are seeking more sponsors to assist with cash and other prizes, Mr. Waite said.

The event also will feature the Troy Wunderle One Man Circus and Adirondack storyteller Bill Smith, sponsored by the accounting firm of Hirschey & Associates, Lowville, numerous activities for both children and adults, and an exhibit from the Adirondack Artisans Guild.

“There is a lot of free entertainment,” Mr. Waite said.

Like last year, acoustic musicians are invited to bring their instruments and play for the crowd, he said.

A group of camp alumni from the Utica area, the “Birdseed Bandits,” was “a surprise hit” last year and may be attending again this spring, Mr. Waite said.

An ecumenical church service will be held at 9:30 a.m. in Getman Lodge featuring Ray Lighthall, father of camp director Todd M. Lighthall.

Mr. Waite called the annual service the “hidden gem of the duck race day.”

All proceeds from the event benefit the Oswegatchie Summer Program Fund, which provides youth scholarships and funds for improvements to the summer program.

Last year’s event raised $35,000.

The Oswegatchie Educational Center is owned and operated by the New York State FFA Foundation Inc. Its mission is to provide people with an opportunity to foster leadership development, environmental education and outdoor recreation. The center is open to all groups, organizations and individuals; affiliation with FFA is not required.

Anyone who cannot attend but wishes to adopt a duck can do so by visiting www.adironduckrace.com. For more information, visit the site or call the center at 346-1222.

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