Charitable Quackery

Are you constantly on the look-out for the offbeat, even bizarre European event/festival/occasion to attend, both for the sake of the experience itself and for wowing your friends when you tell them about it later? Then consider the annual Luxembourg duckrace (website in French):

(Don’t worry, this YouTube video soon straightens itself out by turning 90° to the proper orientation. Also, just dig the announcer speaking in Luxembourgish!)

As you see, a more-accurate name for this would be The Rubber Duck Race: a load (~10,000) of classic yellow* rubber ducks (each with a number affixed at its bottom) is dumped with great ceremony upstream into the brook called the Pétrusse. This was once the mighty river that through the eons carved out the tremendous and picturesque canyon that gives Luxembourg a topography like no other city, but which in modern times has been tamed to flow meekly over a concrete riverbed down at the bottom of the gorge, a shadow of its former self and thereby a prominent instance of Man triumphing over Nature.

Nonetheless, it still has enough water flowing to function, in effect, as an idiosyncratic once-per-year lottery. For people pay €5 for each duck they wish to “sponsor” (“You will have up to 30 minutes before departure of the first wave to register, train and coach your champion,” the website declares), and those that emerge first downstreat at the finish line win prizes. This year’s run happened just yesterday, and the results indicate that a Renault Twingo automobile was the prize for first place, an electric bike for second, and so on down the line for the first 30 finishers.

Naturally, this is all done for charity. This year a pair of institutions for abused children and for children with cancer were the beneficiaries of the funds raised.

* Most are indeed yellow, although it’s clear from the video that the organizers are willing to make some gestures towards duckie diversity and multi-culturalism.

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