Cleveland Duck Race ready to quack off Friday for 12th year

By BRIAN GRAVES brian.grave@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 6/19/17

The day is almost here for what has become a major Cleveland tradition.

The annual Mix 104.1 Great Cleveland Duck Race is set to cast off down the waters of Mouse Creek on Friday.

Steve …

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Cleveland Duck Race ready to quack off Friday for 12th year

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The day is almost here for what has become a major Cleveland tradition.

The annual Mix 104.1 Great Cleveland Duck Race is set to cast off down the waters of Mouse Creek on Friday.

Steve Hartline and Debbie Melton of Don Ledford Automotive Center appeared to feel just ducky as they quacked on about the big event.

“This is the 12th year,” Hartline said, “and it’s unbelievable the number of ducks we have already given out this year.”

The popular event will double this year as WCLE’s 60th anniversary party.

Melton said the Don Ledford showrooms have become a little more crowded around midday as “everyone is on their break and they come to get their ducks.”

Hartline gives credit to local attorney and frequent Mix 104.1 guest James Logan for the genesis of the idea.

“At that time in 2005, we just had the idea to do it,” he said. “There had been a lot of talk about the Greenway and we started talking about the ‘Mighty Mouse Creek.’”

Hartline said the idea came into full bloom by “a conglomeration of people who had the idea.”

But, he adds it was Logan who said the people didn’t come for the prizes.

“He said everyone just wants a chance to get together,” Hartline said. “So, we did it one year and Lisa Erby, who is now principal at E.L. Ross, was our first winner. She won a boat and from there, this thing has grown exponentially.”

Melton said their dealership became involved in 2010.

She recalled the year when Hartline arranged to “take a dumb duck to the race with a police escort.”

“I was like, ‘Steve! Of all the hair-brained things you have ever come up with!’” she said.

Hartline said the “big inflatable duck” went down Keith Street on the back of Melton’s Corvette.

“It was perfect and it got attention, which was the point,” he said with a laugh.

Hartline said Don Ledford “has been the best partner on this thing.”

“Their staff gets fully behind it and they are great,” he said. “This is such a convenient place for everybody to come to get their ducks, and our two teams work so well together.”

Hartline and Ledford gave special note to Dee Azbill at Don Ledford, who helps with the duck registrations.

“We have grown together and it’s become the biggest event in the summertime in Cleveland,” Hartline said.

“It always seems like everybody in Cleveland is there,” Ledford said.

Ledford said it gives their dealership “an opportunity to do something for the community.”

“At first, the ducks were given out by the station,” she said. “Now, we have all the ducks. It is fun and it’s fun to go there on that night and watch the ducks race to the finish line.”

Hartline, who was coy about the exact number of ducks that will be available, would only allow there are around 50 percent more than last year’s race that are being made available, and that number is over 1,000.

He noted there would be a lot of new things this year, especially as the race will double as WCLE’s 60th anniversary party — which includes a new dropoff point for the ducks.

“They are going to stop traffic on Keith Street and they are going to that bridge in the middle of Keith Street from where they will hit the water,” Hartline said.

He said the other major addition this year is there will be two entertainment stages.

“We will have a stage at Cooke’s Food Store,” Hartline said. “The Salvation Army’s Inman Street Coffee House will sponsor four or five bands there.”

He added the Dexter Thomas Band, with WCLE alumnus Harlan Rice, will be headlining, and country performer Kensley Melhorn Music will open.

“I can’t thank the Cooke family enough,” Hartline said. “They got behind this early on. They do a Duck Race sale from noon until 6 that day. They tell me that is their biggest sale of the year — beating Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s a crazy sale on all the things for summer.”

Cooke’s also grills hamburgers and hot dogs, with proceeds going to Girls On The Run of East Tennessee, whose mission of to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using an experienced-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

“The big new thing this year is Fireworks Supermarket, Mix 104.1 and Don Ledford have come together to have fireworks for the first time ever,” he said. “The grand prizes will be awarded just before we light up the skies.”

“Anyone can go to Don Ledford, register online, or listen for our giveaways,” Hartline said. “But, our deadline is Thursday, and we’ll be at Don Ledford that day from 3 until 6 p.m.”

He said one of the main things that he finds himself doing on race day is answering his phone.

“Everyone wants to know, ‘Is it too late to get a duck?’ That’s usually a major part of my day,” Hartline said.

He said the day will begin with a broadcast from the Town House Bake Shop that morning, and then “all day long the phones are ringing.”

Ledford remembered an even more hectic race day for Hartline.

“Steve’s better half had a child one day during the duck race,” she said.

“It was 2012,” Hartline confirmed.

Hartline expressed his appreciation to the staff at Mix 104.1 including Bridget Forrester, Dewayne Williams and Ashely Rue for all their organizational efforts. He also named WCLE alumnus Aaron Evorsing, who was there at the beginning.

Registration for the race will begin at 4 p.m. Friday, and run until 6:30 p.m.

“It will be a longer and even more special night where people will gather with all kinds of music, food, free Mayfield Ice Cream, more activities than we’ve ever had before, and more vendors than we’ve ever had before,” Hartline said. “It’s going to be a fun night.”

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