23 January 2024

Rubber ducks to flood the river at Wagga Beach this Australia Day

| Chris Roe
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group of people with giant yellow rubber duck

The Mighty Murrumbidgee Duck Race is back for 2024. Photos: South Wagga Apex Club.

Wagga is in for a rubber ducky flood this Australia Day as the lads from South Wagga Apex Club gear up for this year’s Mighty Murrumbidgee Duck Race.

The 26 January event at Wagga Beach is shaping up to be bigger than ever before with live music, rides and amusements for the kids, and more yellow ducks than you can poke a stick at.

“We’ve got 1500 ducks this year,” laughed South Wagga Apex president Zachary Morden-Jones.

“Last year, we sold over 1000 ducks, so if we can sell them all this year, that’d be great.”

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Several races will be held throughout the day, from the corporate-sponsored events to the big, all-in community duck race.

“You can get an entry to the Community Duck Race for $5 a duck and they’ll all be put down in one big race,” Zac explained.

“There’ll be a $5000 cash prize pool for the winner and places in that race.”

promotional poster for town's rubber duck race

By buying a duck for the community race, families receive a wristband that lets the kids ride the amusements free.

With the prizes going to the ducks that float the fastest, Zac said there was little you could do to influence the outcome besides cheering your little rubber champion on.

“There’s not much science in it: they’re in a basket and we just release them at the same time down a strip of the river that will be about four metres or so from the bank,” he said.

“In the past, we have used the entire river but we’ve found that doesn’t work.

“Ducks get lost and some end up on the bank, so it’s really hard to capture them all, so we’ll keep them in a lane.”

The South Wagga Apex team is committed to hosting inclusive community events and promises that Australia Day at Wagga Beach will be a fun and affordable day out.

“We really just want to bring the community out for a family-friendly day on Australia Day and celebrate the river,” Zac said.

“To make it affordable, we’re paying for all the kids’ entertainment and we’ve got face painting, a petting zoo, pony rides and a few amusement rides lined up.

“So what we’ve said is that with the purchase of a $5 duck, you’ll get a wristband that will give you the kids’ rides for the whole afternoon.”

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The annual rubber duck race evolved as an alternative to the iconic Gumi inflatable tube race that began in 1976.

The event had to be cancelled in 2019 due to a low river and further challenges with COVID, and the recent floods have kept the Gumi on hold.

Zac said organisers remained cautiously optimistic that they may one day revive the popular race.

“Water levels and insurance are the biggest challenges,” he explained.

“There’s a lot of planning that goes into the Gumi and then if the water levels are too high we can’t do it – if they are a bit too low we can’t do it and the last couple of times we looked into the insurance, it’s getting pretty challenging as well.”

In the meantime, the Mighty Murrumbidgee Duck Race promises plenty of fun for the whole family.

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