Ducks And Dragons

Rubber Duckies Take Over Chautauqua Lake In Annual Festival

Workers corral around 2,000 rubber ducks used Saturday at the Chautauqua Lake Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday. The event’s proceeds were split between the Chautauqua Lake Association and the Laker’s Disabled Sled Hockey Team. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

CELORON — Chautauqua Lake played host to a variety of aquatic “animals” on Saturday, including dragons and ducks.

For most of the day, the lake was filled with either dragon boats or rubber duckies during the Chautauqua Lake Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday. The day kicked off with a pancake breakfast provided by Meals on Wheels of Jamestown.

An opening ceremony was held before the racers glided across the lake in their boats race after race.

Heather Nolan, Chautauqua Lake Dragon Boat Race committee co-chair, said the best part of the day was seeing all the happy people in the park.

“There were over 500 people here this morning when we did a rough head count as the races were starting off, and it’s just amazing to see that many people,” Nolan said. “We wanted this to be a community event about the lake. Seeing all these people enjoying the lake is wonderful, It’s a beautiful part of our county and it’s something that should be utilized like this all the time.”

Over 2,000 rubber ducks were dumped into Chautauqua Lake during the annual Rubber Ducky Race sponsored by the Greater Chautauqua Federal Credit Union during the Chautauqua Lake Dragon Boat Race on Saturday. Photo submitted by Lee Harkness

She said there were even a few people in the morning who told her that they had never been on a boat before but decided to race a dragon boat.

Great White North rented the boats for the event. Nolan said they were very helpful and they were easy to work with. Overall, there were 30 different teams from multiple areas.

“It was a big improvement and increase from last year, which we are very happy about,” she said. “It was a really good event, so thank you to everyone who contributed and helped out.”

The committee plans to do the event again next year in August, she said.

There were two divisions: an experienced or club team division and the novice division.

For the experienced teams, Steel City Dragons team 1 took first place; Ithaca Gorges Dragons took second place and Steel City Dragons team 2 took third place. For the novice division, Wave Ryders from Ryder’s Cup took first place, Xcelsior from New Flyer took second; and St. Luke’s Church team took third place.

Lee Harkness, committee member, said the park was full of life throughout the day, which was a pleasant sight to see.

“It started last year, and Judge Joe Gerace is the one who brought it to everyone as a fundraiser for the lake,” Harkness said. “This is just a beautiful spot to do this. It was very successful.”

He said there were people at the event from Ithaca, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo.

“This Dragon Boat racing is getting really popular,” Harkness said.

After the races, the ducks took over the lake in a Rubber Ducky Race, which benefits the Chautauqua Lake Association and the Lakers Disabled Sled Hockey Team. Last year, over $12,000 was raised. This year, over 2,000 rubber duckies raced across the waves on Chautauqua Lake, according to credit union CEO Kelly Haaksma.

“Last year, the Dragon Boat committee got together and sent out fliers, and we got one in the mail that there was going to be this big Dragon Boat Festival,” Haaksma said.

“So, we were like, ‘We have ducks, let’s see if they’re interested,’ and we figured we could do a fundraiser with them at the same time.”

Fifty percent of the event’s proceeds go to the Chautauqua Lake Association while the other half goes to the Laker’s Disabled Sled Hockey Team.

For the Rubber Ducky race, tickets were sold for $5, each corresponding with a rubber duck. On the day of the race, the ducks were released into the water and the first one to reach the other end of the race course won the ticketholder $500.

The event was sponsored by a variety of businesses and organizations, including main sponsors Greater Chautauqua Federal Credit Union and the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.