Rick Anderson’s pet duck doesn’t quack, it roars.
The unnatural noise comes from a miniature, German-made racing motor. Anderson rigged it in the bowels of his decoy duck, hoping the horsepower will make it the fastest critter on Sand Creek.
“I’m working on getting it to plane and get above the 40-mph mark,” he said, only half-joking.
Anderson and a group of other businessmen in Sandpoint have spent weeks huddled in secrecy building hot-rod ducks. On the Fourth of July they will unleash the creatures in Sand Creek to raise money for Kinderhaven, a home for abused and abandoned children.
There are about 43 corporate ducks entered in the race. Many of them are decorated and professionally painted. At least six are souped-up, remote-controlled models that cost entrants between $300-$600 to concoct. And the big prize for the winner? An old softball trophy modified to reflect a duck theme.
The trophy is still under wraps as are the mutant mallards. The teams of altered-duck owners don’t want the competition stealing any ideas before the race.
“The bull is flying, and I don’t know who to believe anymore,” said Anderson, who works at Evergreen Realty. “I heard about one team doing a test run, and the duck was such a monster the guy running it needed 15 stitches in his arm. It could be true, it could be complete blarney.”
Another competitor told Anderson if his duck can’t do 50 mph he doesn’t have a chance.
“I don’t know if he is pulling my leg.”
Susan Baitch, a founder of Kinderhaven, is the brains behind the fund-raiser. She never thought it would get such an enthusiastic response or this carried away. The businesses turned competitive, so she let them modify their ducks. The only rule is there are no rules.
“They are having a lot of fun with it and it’s a great cause,” she said.
Even Baitch doesn’t know what’s inside all the ducks. The day before the race, the corporate ducks will be judged on looks and displayed at the Board of Realtors. But Tom Renk and the C.M. Brewster & Co.’s creature will be missing. He doesn’t want anyone to see it before the race.
“We all put our heads together and have modified our duck slightly,” Renk said, being coy. “It’s just about ready.”
He’s heard rumors someone wants to launch their decoy through the air with a cannon-like device. “That remains to be seen, but people are getting pretty inventive.”
Russ Rector is chief duck builder for Connie’s Motor Inn. He surprised some motel patrons when he took it for a spin around the motel pool. He also had a close encounter with real geese on Lake Pend Oreille during another test run.
“They didn’t like it. They were trying to attack this thing and I had to get it out of the water. It was hilarious.”
One decoy is fitted with pontoons, others have remote-controlled motors inside and one competitor plans to tow his decoy behind a canoe.
Another team wanted to fill their decoy with air and sink it underwater at the finish line. It was rigged to pop up when the starting gun sounded, making it an instant winner. Baitch nixed that idea.
“When there are no rules it’s hard to tell what is cheating,” Anderson said. His duck was at a local artist’s shop Friday having its feathers professionally painted. “It’s not just fast, it’s beautiful.”
Jamie Miller of Sandpoint Marine Sales and Service painted flames on the side of his racer. He’s still working on the mechanical parts.
“I should have a good shot at least at winning the speediest looking duck,” he laughed.
The race starts at 11 a.m. The ducks will race from the Coldwater Creek bridge to Bridge Street. About 500 smaller rubber ducks will also be released. Residents bought them for $5 apiece. The first rubber duck across the line wins a $500 gift certificate to Coldwater Creek.
Baitch hopes to turn the duck derby into an annual fund-raiser. There is no doubt the corporate losers will want another crack at it next year. Besides, “what else are they going to do with those things,” Baitch said.