EUGENE, Ore. — On any given day, you’ll find John Mielke in the studio of KKNX AM 840 HD. He’s watched the Great Rotary Duck Race grow over its 25 years.
“It’s interesting to see how many ducks sell,” he said. “Whether it’s a good economy or a bad economy, the ducks always seem to make it down the river.”
A few years back, Mielke got more involved in the race.
“We donate one of the prizes that they give away. We do the $1,000 dinner extravaganza so you eat out at four or five restaurants in town,” the radio host said.
The Duck Race and KKNX are tied closely in Mielke’s memories.
“We started the radio station in July. Won the Jeep in October. It was a good year. It was kind of fun,” he said.
He’s kept buying tickets ever since. So has Stacie Sisk ever since her win.
“We were so blessed,” said Sisk. “It was a tough year for our family and that particular prize happened to be $1,000 in groceries at Safeway. It couldn’t have been better timing.”
Sisk won after buying her very first Duck Race ticket.
“When I found out my duck was the very last duck to cross the finish line that was a winner, that was just unbelievable,” she said. “I’ve bought a duck ticket every year since.”
It took Kathy Re a few more tries.
“I purchased tickets for 20 years and never won,” she said. “So I put ‘em in the drawer and don’t think about them again.”
Re’s ticket tradition got its start with the help of Burnell Ambrose, this year’s honorary Papa Duck.
“He feels so strongly about it, he makes you feel strongly about it. And you, of course, want to help,” said Re.
For 20 years, she bought books and and books of tickets, never expecting to actually win the grand prize. But she did just that in 2011, going home with a new Volkswagon Jetta from Sheppard Motors.
“It was really cool to win,” she said, but she pointed out kids are the real winners of the Duck Race.
“You might win something,” said Re, “but that’s beside the point as far as I’m concerned. It’s the cause you go for.”
Sisk agreed: “You are making a difference in the community and you are helping the children in our community. Buy a ticket.”
Your first chance to buy one of those tickets and have a chance at winning the $87,500 worth of prizes this year comes on Tuesday, July 17 at the Great Rotary Duck Race Kickoff Celebration. It starts at 5:30 p.m. at Valley River Inn.