Rubber ducks a sign of the end of summer

September 5, 2010: Rubber Ducks are dumped into the Ohio River as part of the Freestore Foodbank's Rubber Duck Regatta celebrating Labor Day with a Riverfest celebration.

Rubber ducks and fireworks.

It may not make sense to the rest of the world. But in Cincinnati, they go together like goetta and eggs. Which also doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world.

What makes us quirky makes us cool, right?

Here, ordering a three-way feels perfectly normal. Spicy mustard comes in 197 varieties. The city’s largest fireworks display happens not on the Fourth of July, but Labor Day.

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And some of you will read the previous three sentences and not understand why people might find any of it strange.

Don’t change, Cincinnati.

For the last 27 years, before the waterfall fireworks from the bridge, before hard rock anthems and ribbits become the soundtrack of the night, Labor Day has also meant tens of thousands of yellow rubber ducks being poured into the Ohio River. They’re now synonymous with the end of summer.

Volunteers "tag" ducks for the 25th Annual Rubber Duck Regatta on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 at the Freestore Foodbank in Bond Hill, Ohio. The numbers will identify the owners of the winning ducks on September 1st regatta on the Ohio River.

The Rubber Duck Regatta is a fundraiser for the Freestore Foodbank, and its tagline keeps the message – and the action – simple. Buy a duck, feed a child. Each little yellow duck costs $5 and manages to provide 15 meals for kids who need them. And the Freestore serves 90,000 children. “We’re really good at multiplication,” said Kurt Reiber, president and CEO.

Last year, the fundraiser sold 200,000 ducks, though just like this year, they were of the virtual variety. Logistics, social distancing and the Purple People Bridge’s shutdown this year means we won’t see that spectacle of a tractor trailer hoisted by two giant cranes, pouring ducks into a containment zone in the river.

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