AVOCA – Kris Simmons came to Saturday’s Avoca Quackoff with dreams of having a good time at the annual duck races.
She left the Tefft Park tennis court with a large golden trophy for her work during the day.
The Otoe resident claimed the top prize after the championship race of the 39th annual Avoca Quackoff. More than 225 people entered ducks in this year’s event, which took place under sunny skies and near a snowcapped landscape. Simmons said she was thrilled to have her name added to the list of past Quackoff champions.
“There’s no feeling like it,” Simmons said after receiving her trophy. “I’ve made it to the quarterfinals before but I’ve never gotten to the finals, and then to be able to actually win this is great. It’s a really good feeling.”
Simmons brought her own duck with her to race in the event. Her brown, white-winged duck was the first animal to cross the finish line in the opening round, and Simmons and her duck continued their winning ways in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
They then began the championship race in the middle lane of the five-lane setup on the tennis court. Simmons watched her duck scramble down the cement path ahead of all other competitors.
Avoca Volunteer Fire Department members presented Simmons with a golden trophy that was filled with small yellow rubber ducks. She beamed as friends and family members cheered for her at the awards ceremony.
Simmons was far from the only person who enjoyed their time at the Quackoff. Lyons resident Rhea Landholm traveled nearly two hours from northeast Nebraska to take part in the event for the second straight year.
“It was a lot of fun last year, so I wanted to come back again,” Landholm said. “It’s a great way to support a small town and everyone is having a good time. It’s been great today.”
Blue Hill resident Kylie Kinley and Omaha resident Daniel Burns echoed those views. Both participated in their first Quackoff races and said they were enjoying their experiences.
“It’s been super,” said Kinley, who wore blue-heart sunglasses for her journey down the racing lane. “I’m from a small town too, so it’s nice to see something like this, especially when all of the money raised is going to help the town. It’s really nice.”
“I have friends from Syracuse, and they were telling me all about this when they went last year,” Burns said. “I missed out and I wanted to see what they were talking about. I love how they’ve set it up and how everyone is having a good time. I’m having a blast myself.”
Rhonda Plofkin reached the quarterfinals with more knowledge of the Quackoff up her proverbial sleeve. The Creighton University graduate participated in her sixth Quackoff after traveling to Cass County from Mountain View, Calif.
She is currently interning at the NASA Ames Research Center and is helping to build an artificial neural network for scientists to use to predict tornados. She is also teaching a class on weather and climate as an adjunct faculty member at San Jose State University.
“My boyfriend picked me up at the airport and we came down here especially for this,” Plofkin said. “I do this every year. I’ve met a lot of friends here and I love seeing all of the excitement that’s around the area. It’s such a good time.”
Avoca Volunteer Fire Department member Richard Moses said the first tour bus arrived in town at 8:20 a.m. and the second bus entered the village at 8:45 a.m. Fourteen tour buses were parked on Main Street by the time races started at 1 p.m., and many others were lined up along Garfield Street on the east end of town.
More than 2,000 people came to Avoca to watch races and gather in designated party areas. The championship event took place just before 3 p.m.
Avoca Volunteer Fire Department will receive all proceeds from sales of concessions, t-shirts and other items. Local firefighters have used money from past Quackoffs to purchase many types of equipment, vehicles and apparel.