Several hundred rubber ducks to race down the Thornton River rapids

Sperryville biz owners building on tourism buzz surrounding the town

Imagine 250 rubber ducks racing down the cascading Thornton River from one reach of Sperryville to the other.

Actually, don’t bother imagining. Get ready for it.

“I believe I have talked with many of you about my dream of watching ducks float down the mighty Thornton River every spring,” Before & After café’s Kerry Sutten has written to his Sperryville neighbors. “An even wilder dream is to watch them race one another. To make this small dream come true, I want to propose an annual ‘Great Rubber Duck Race Down the Mighty Thornton River’ (the bigger the name, the more exciting the event) with the inaugural race planned for Saturday, April 28.”

One of 250 rubber ducks that will race down the Thornton River greets customers at Before & After in Sperryville. By John McCaslin

The primary purpose of the race, the businessman explains in part, is to build on the momentum of Thrillist Travel placing Sperryville (pop. 342) in the company of Telluride, CO, Newport, RI, and Sedona, AZ, as one of the country’s 50 best small towns to visit.

Sutten believes the duck race will encourage even “more business opportunities by bringing locals and tourists into town for an event and raise some funds for Sperryville beautification projects (to be determined by a community process yet to be defined).

“The idea is pretty simple,” he continues. “On April 28, we dump 250 rubber ducks into the river at the Main Street Bridge and let them ‘race’ to the River District, where we catch them and declare the winners. To raise money, I propose those retail business with an interest offer duck raffle tickets corresponding to a number on the duck.”

But where does one come across 250 rubber ducks?

“I have the ducks — and they are cute,” reveals Sutten, admitting he has had a fondness for rubber ducks ever since “one or two” floated around his childhood bathtub.

Sutten says he once witnessed a similar rubber duck race in another community and felt it was a “no brainer” for Sperryville, given the town is blessed with a river running smack through its center. So he ordered several hundred of the bright yellow ducks from an Ohio supplier in anticipation of such a race and he’s “delighted” that several fellow Sperryville business owners “are so on board.”

One day in the not so distant future Sutten foresees an entire “duck weekend” of activities and festivities in Sperryville, attracting visitors from near and far — each equipped, of course, with duck hats, duck whistles, and other quacky paraphernalia.

A mere 15 volunteers can make the race happen, Sutten figures: “Three to start the race by blowing a whistle (duck whistle, of course) and gently dumping ducks off the bridge then following them down the river to help out the tired stragglers, six ‘race officials’ located along to route to ensure the ducks move under their own power (if you get my drift), [and] six ‘brave souls’ to declare the winner and catch the ducks to stop them from heading off to the Atlantic Ocean.”

He’s also proposing a Thornton River Cleanup Day, tentatively scheduled for Sunday, April 22, which happens to be Earth Day. What better way, he says, to clean up the river and showcase it proudly for all to see and experience.

Here is a draft of the proposed rubber duck inaugural race rules, which are subject to change:

• Each rubber duck will have a racing number corresponding with a raffle ticket stub

• A raffle ticket can be purchased (price to be determined) from participating Sperryville businesses

• On April 28 at a time to be announced the 250 rubber ducks will be launched from the Main Street Bridge to be carried downstream by the water’s natural current

• The ducks race at their own pace. If they decide to take a break, only an authorized race official is allowed to encourage them back into the race

• Race watchers are encouraged to enjoy the exciting race from various points along the river

• At the finishing point, buoys constructed in a funnel shape will allow for the passage of one rubber duck at a time to determine win, place and show

• First, second and third place prizes will be awarded to holders of the winning ticket stubs

• A second set of buoys, without any gaps, will be constructed in the area immediately beyond the finishing line to confine and collect all rubber ducks that came out to participate in the Great Duck Race Down the Mighty Thornton River.

Until then, the community needs to keep its collective fingers crossed for some beneficial April showers so the river’s banks are nice and full.

For more information on the inaugural rubber duck race and/or to participate in the Thornton River cleanup on Earth Day please contact Kerry Sutten at 540-987-8392 or via

About John McCaslin 467 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at