IT isn’t an Olympic sport yet, but that won’t stop thousands of competitors converging on Alnwick for a thrilling, high-stakes race this summer.
And the athletes taking part will be made of plastic – duck-shaped plastic, to be precise.
As part of the landmark Festival of Alnwick, in celebration of the London 2012 Olympic Games, a massive duck race will be returning to the Alnwick Garden’s Grand Cascade on Sunday, June 10. Funds raised will help to stage the wider week-long festival, which is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors to coincide with the visit of the Olympic Torch on June 14.
A donation will also be made from the sales of tickets to support the Grace House North East Children’s Hospice Appeal.
Festival organiser Karen Larkin, who has staged similar races over the last three years in aid of Grace House, said: “This has been a much-loved event and has been a huge fund-raiser that has benefited Grace House
“The funds raised this year will help to put on the week-long festival as well as provide a donation to Grace House for allowing us to use their trained ducks. I am very grateful to The Alnwick Garden for allowing me to hold a duck race again.
“The aim of the Festival week is to include as many people, groups and organisations as possible and the duck race is a great event that covers all ages.
“I have booked fine weather and I hope that by pulling together we can all sell some tickets which, in turn, will benefit the town.”
Tickets cost £2 each and include entry into The Alnwick Garden from 4pm on June 10. There is a prize of £100 which will be awarded to the winning duck of each race.
The first race is at 4.30pm and the second race is at 5.30pm.
Karen added: “We need as many businesses, groups and organisations as possible to help us sell the tickets. Tickets can be purchased from The Playhouse or you can contact me directly on 07846 542929.”
Already weighing in with support is Alnwick Markets, whose chairman, Philip Angier, said: “The visit of the Olympic Torch Relay is a once in a lifetime event for the town. Alnwick Markets is delighted to offer its support for Festival of Alnwick in June by sponsoring the Duck Races.
“I am sure they will be a quacking success!”
A list of sporting events and attractions for the festival week is now taking shape, with a number of local clubs, groups and organisations committing their support.
Plans are already being discussed for a funfair on Bondgate Within, including a 50-foot-high ferris wheel, as well as hot air balloon rides, sporting contests, parades and live music.
The aim of the festival is to showcase the town and its surrounding area when the world’s media descends during the week-long event, which will begin on Saturday, June 9 and culminate on Friday, June 15 – the day the torch leaves Alnwick for Newcastle.
As well as celebrating the sporting achievements of local people, the festival organisers also want to give all clubs, societies, community groups, schools and organisations a chance to shine and ultimately attract new members.
And in keeping with the spirit of the Olympics, it is hoped the extravaganza will establish a legacy of sporting activity in the district, while attracting tourists to join in the celebrations and boost local trade.
While the official Olympic Roadshow takes place in the Pastures on the Thursday evening, a special closing event will be held at The Alnwick Garden the following day, where all the winners of events held during the course of the week will be given specially-commissioned medals, culminating in a spectacular flame show.
Sporting events now confirmed include a first-ever historical swordfighting contest, hosted by the Alnwick-based Hotspur School of Defence, where combatants from across the UK will compete in traditional English Backswording on Saturday, June 9.
Amble Sea Angling Club is staging an open shore competition on June 10, for which it is bringing a special trophy – the Big ’Un – out of retirement.
Basketball fans will be able to see slam-dunks with a difference with a spectacular display by leading players from Aspire 2 Achieve, featuring trampolines. The Slamball demo takes place on June 14, while a special All-Stars match featuring the best players in the county is to be played at Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre on June 10. And to cap it off, attempts to break two world records will be staged at the venue on June 13.
Alnwick Harriers will be holding their annual Les Allcorn 10k Race on June 12, which is expected to attract hundreds of runners to compete on a course through Hulne Park.
Tournaments and other sporting fixtures are also under discussion with a variety of football, rugby, cricket, bowls and golf clubs across the area.
Any local groups of individuals who want to get involved can visit www.festivalofalnwick.co.uk