New Brunswick celebrates 300th anniversary with rubber duck race


In the fight for 1st prize, some competitors quacked under pressure


rubberduckpatrickchen
Photo by PATRICK CHEN |

On Sunday, hundreds of spectators came down to Boyd Park to partake in the Raritan River Festival and watch the annual Rubber Duck Race. The event raised money for pediatric brain cancer research and emphasized the ties between New Brunswick and the central river.


This Sunday, New Brunswick celebrated its annual "Raritan River Festival and Rubber Duck Race" by the waterfront in Boyd Park with environmental advocacy, live music, arts and fundraising.

The first Raritan River Festival was held in 1980, making this year's celebration the 37th festival. 

Hundreds of people crowded the banks of the Raritan River to watch raft and canoe races as a part of the event.

According to the event's website, the festival was awarded “Living Legend” status by the United States Library of Congress. It continues to combine community entertainment with environmental awareness and action.

“Historically, the development of Central New Jersey was based largely on the utilization of the Raritan River to transport people and goods. Most of this commerce was centered around the head of navigation at New Brunswick,” the first festival chairman M.J. “Mac” Babcock wrote. 

The celebration was meant to emphasize the ties between the City of New Brunswick and the historic Raritan River

One of the festival’s main highlights is The Beez Foundation’s annual Rubber Duck Race. “Adopted” rubber ducks are hoisted into the air in a jumbo-duck egg and are subsequently dropped into the river. The ducks then race to the dock and prizes are awarded to the winning ducks.

This year, Leon Rainbow painted the jumbo duck egg in which the adopted rubber ducks are hoisted into. Rainbow is an artist in Trenton, New Jersey who combines graffiti, street art and other art forms into projects and events. He said the Rubber Duck Races are important because of the organization behind it.

“They’re raising money for kid’s brain cancer research. It’s also a real family-fun oriented event,” he said. "It has people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities that all come out.”

As for the design of the jumbo duck egg, Rainbow said he wanted it to look like it was cracking with a honeycomb pattern underneath.

“I wanted a play on the Beez Foundation,” he said. “I painted the last couple (of eggs) and I worked with my friend Gentrify. I also wanted to tie in the logo. I was really happy with how the words came out. They were in graffiti style, but were clear.”

The Beez Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization that raises money and public awareness to cure brain cancer through research, education and related support activities for pediatric cancer treatment.

Other organizations also participated in the festival, like the New Brunswick Cultural Center (NBCC) who provided music and entertainment for festival goers.

Another highlight of the festival is the Cardboard Canoe Races. Registered participants build and race canoes in the Raritan River, combining creativity and engineering with friendly competition.

This year, local restaurants around town raced across the river for the title of champion. Staff from Clydz, The Dillinger Room, Hyatt Regency, Old Bay, Harvest Moon and Destination Dogs built their own cardboard canoe and sailed across the Raritan.

Steve Viana, a bartender at local restaurants INC American Bar and Kitchen, said he was supposed to race across the Raritan, but had to back out due to an engineering problem with his canoe.

“I wanted to join the race because it is a fun little race that brings together the bars and restaurants in New Brunswick and sets up some friendly competition,” he said.

He said the festival brings together the different businesses and organizations in New Brunswick. 

“It shows how supportive the businesses of New Brunswick are to each other. New Brunswick is unique in the fact that the bars of New Brunswick don’t just try to compete with each other, but we try and support one another,” Viana said.

He said the crafting of the canoes was not easy, but it was a lot of fun.

“I found the building process difficult. I like the process of trial and error to see what works best. Since we are limited to using the materials provided it is a nice challenge, but, unfortunately, my boat suffered catastrophic failure before even reaching the race,” he said. “I look forward to competing next year with a new design and beating the competition to bring home the trophy.”


Jill Pastor

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