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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

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Rubber ducks paddle to fund Ithaca 4-H

The+Cornell+Cooperative+Extension+Tompkins+County+hosted+their+4-H+Duck+Race+for+the+first+time+since+2019%2C+where+Ithaca+residents+could+watch+3%2C000+ducks+race+down+the+Cascadilla+Creek+falls.+Prizes+were+given+to+the+ducks+that+finished+first+and+last+place+in+the+race.
Lucia Iandolo
The Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County hosted their 4-H Duck Race for the first time since 2019, where Ithaca residents could watch 3,000 ducks race down the Cascadilla Creek falls. Prizes were given to the ducks that finished first and last place in the race.

For the first time since 2019, the 4-H Duck Race was back and in person April 28 in Ithaca. Community members of all ages engaged in the fun at the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), where different tables from local businesses and organizations were able to sell products. The launch of the duck race took place at Cascadilla Creek falls. 

Cynthia Cave-Gaetani, executive director for CCE, said that the event encourages adolescent development and that it is an integral part of building a community. 

“This is a really wonderful way to get the community to get together,” Cave-Gaetani said. “And it’s just so exciting that we sold 3,000 ducks — that’s all the ducks that we have … and, you know, it really helps to promote child and youth development and programming.” 

The CCE fosters youth programming for families in New York state, giving over 300,000 children and teens experiences in 4-H programming. Programs include youth development programs, camps, strengthening families programs, the Primitive Pursuits program, rural youth services and urban outreach programs. 

Cave-Gaetani said the 4-H Duck Race is an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate community. She said the spirit of the town during the event creates a joyful experience. 

“This is actually my first year as the executive director, and also my first year at this Duck Race,” Cave-Gaetani said. “I’m new. It is all new to me. And it is such a celebration of this county of the community and just the spirit that people have about supporting youth. And it just makes you feel good … looking at the crowd and the joy. That’s what it’s all about.”

With a countdown from the crowd, the 3,000 ducks were sent down the waterfall at the Cascadilla Creek falls, located within the Cornell Botanic Garden’s Cascadilla Gorge Trail, and started their adventure all the way to the CCE. The crowd followed the ducks as they went on their journey. 

People were able to bet on one duck for $5 or a flock of ducks — five ducks — for $20. All proceeds from the fundraising event went to the 4-H youth programs in Tompkins County. The 4-H youth programs run programs year round and include after school programs, summer camps, clubs and workshops. 

There was plenty of energy and enthusiasm from the attendees of the event, mainly consisting of families with young children. People were so enthused that some attendees even dressed up as ducks with face paint and colorful attire. 

As the ducks reached the finish line, the community eagerly watched as the first place duck finished its expedition. The crowd erupted into loud cheers and celebrations. Although the ducks finished their journey, the people continued on to the CCE to discover the winners. 

David Foote, communications manager at the CCE, was documenting the event and emphasized the importance of why engagement matters so much within the greater Ithaca community. 

“It’s a good chance for the community to learn a little more about 4-H programs while enjoying fun games, activities and snacks, spending time with other people in the neighborhood and just having a good day,” Foote said. “I think it’s just a matter of letting people know we’re here and if they’re interested in connecting with us more, whether enrolling youth in programs, becoming a 4-H volunteer themselves, or just learning about some of our gardening programs or cooking classes.” 

After families watched the ducks travel down the river, they were able to attend a tabling event. Each table had a different topic like composting and agriculture that had educational opportunities for the youth. 

Gabe Smith, an agroforestry educator at the CCE, had a table that was representative of the CCE’s agriculture and horticulture program.

“There’s lots of different activities, very family focused, so it’s been fun to talk about gardening with both kids and adults,” Smith said. “What we do is education [and] education outreach, and so being able to do this in person, I think really highlights all of the programming that we do have in a way that people can readily access it.”

Cave-Gaetani said the measures put in place to ensure environmental safety in the Ithaca community. 

“Those ducks have been a part of this experience for 20 years. … The same ducks year after year. We’ve added more to them because this has grown … but we have 3,000 … 3,000 went over … and we will count 3,000 to make sure that they are all recovered,” Cave-Gaetani said. 

At 4 p.m. the awards were announced. The first prize duck won $500 and the first 50 ducks received other prizes and gift certificates to local businesses — there was also a prize for the very last duck that finished the race. 

Peter Angie, issue leader at CCE, addressed the crowd and thanked them for their participation in the event. 

“We are working all year to bring positive youth development programming to the kids of Tompkins County,” Angie said. “And it’s folks like you that are making that happen and that allow us to keep doing the work that we do. It brings us joy, it brings the kids that we work with joy. So we are so thankful that you’re here and made this day a success.”

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Lucia Iandolo, Videographer
Mei Dennison, Videographer
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