Families and travelers alike have been flocking to New Hampshire’s White Mountains for years. Jackson New Hampshire, a well recognized, charming New England village and tourist destination this year plays host to the 25th Anniversary of a family event so highly entertaining and out of the ordinary, you have to see it to believe it. The Wildquack Duck River Festival, held in Jackson Village Park, puts a family spin on a traditional fundraiser during an all encompassing family day in the park. So what is it? As Kathleen Driscoll, Executive Director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce tells us, it is a celebration of the start of Summer, and a great fundraiser for local schools, shops and Jackson PD. The festival sees 3,500 yellow rubber ducks float down the Wildcat River at one time, racing their way to the finish with some family help along the way.
RAL: What is this all about, and how did it come to be?
KJ: This originally was a fundraiser to help raise money for the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce and some other local organizations, as well as to get people to come visit Jackson during times when we needed some help in the tourism segment. When it first started, it was just local vendors…food and picnics in the park, and about 1,000 ducks that we would sell. Now, we sell more than 3,500 ducks to float down the river. It has grown from being just a few vendors with food to quite a large event/family day in the park. We have a parade, duck races, kid activities, food, talent shows, cake boss competition, and so much more.
RAL: Who comes to the Duck Festival?
KJ: Well, this has really grown over the past 25 years into something much larger and more recognizable around Jackson and the New England area. We have a lot of local folks that have been here for many years, and we also have a strong segment of travelers who have made this a part of their family tradition over the years. We do see primarily families, as this is a family based event.
RAL: What can I expect over the course of the day?
KJ: Well first of all, the festival is held in Jackson Village, which is absolutely beautiful. To get to the festival, you come over a historic one-lane bridge and around the bend on a tiny road, where you will immediately see a big, green, wonderful looking park, as well as the Wildcat River. The park will have lots of tents, decorations, vendors, etc. We all are there around 7am, so if you wanted to join us for breakfast, you are more than welcome. The families love this because over the course of the day, their children will have so much to do. There are childrens activities, bouncy houses, a stage with live music, and so much more. Local and visiting vendors serve up everything from lobster salad sandwich rolls, to your traditional hot dog or hamburger…cotton candy, kettle corn, etc.
There are a number of local shops and resort areas that are right along the park and river. Individual businesses such as the library and bakery have their own sales, as well as some of the other shops and restaurants. We also have swimming going on all day and old fashioned wagon rides. There is just so much to do.
“The visitors get so into it, the community loves it and really, this event brings the kid out in everybody.”
RAL: Talk about the significance this holds in the Jackson community…
KJ: This does bring a lot of people to the village to see what we are all about. It is also the only fundraiser that the Jackson Police Department has over the course of the year, so that is a significant item for us as well. We support the Jackson PD and a percentage of the proceeds from this event go to their expenses as a department. The proceeds also fund a lot of other local efforts, such as The Humane Society, the Special Olympics, as well as the Kennet Key Club High School, who also uses this as the biggest fundraiser of their year.
RAL: Where do you see this event going in the future?
KJ: I do think this will continue to grow. This is a huge family gathering. There is one particular family that I know of from Massachusetts, and this is a family that has more than 20 people, and they are always the first ones here in the park. They have been coming to this now for 16 years. So I really do see this continuing to grow and be a significant part of this community for years to come. Typically we get about 4,000 people to this event, and I expect that number to grow.
RAL: Why do you think this festival is so unique?
KJ: Well, I have worked in a few places and worked on several events including the Boston Marathon, and other things of that caliber. It is the people that run the thing that make it so great. The Jackson community has such great human beings. They love people to come here. They love to greet new people and make them feel like Jackson is their home. And really, who doesn’t love rubber duckies? Especially 3,500 of them floating down a river? It is just hysterical. We have had the same MC for all 25 years, and now his son is joining him in the fun. The visitors get so into it, the community loves it and really, this event brings the kid out in everybody.
To learn more about the Wildquack Duck River Festival & how to get involved, click here.