May 22, 2009— -- Once a year, the sleepy New Hampshire town of Jackson is invaded by ducks -- thousands of rubber ducks.
Jackson will celebrate its 20th annual Wildquack Duck Race on Sunday. Roughly 3,500 rubber ducks are raced each year down the Wildcat River. That's nearly four ducks per person for this town of less than 900 residents.
The event is just one of countless wacky events and festivals to be held around the country this summer. So in the spirit of Memorial Day -- the unofficial kickoff to summer -- we are bringing you our favorite five summer events.
The duck race draws thousands of people to Jackson, N.H. They line the streets and climb street poles to get a view of the race, according to Kathleen L. Driscoll, executive director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce.
The rubber duckies are purchased for $6 each -- or four for $20 -- with the money supporting the local fire and police departments, humane society, Special Olympics, school and the chamber.
The owner of the first duck to cross the finish line gets $1,000. The last duck's owner get a mountain bike. A "stuck duck patrol," made up of local kids, ensures that each floating fowl makes it down the river to the finish line. All the ducks taken out of the river at the end of the race.
"We leave the environment the way we found it," Driscoll said.
But the event is more than just a race. There is a dunk tank with local "celebrities" and a chance for anybody to step onto a stage for their 15 minutes of fame. The catch: If the crowd doesn't like your act, they can quack you off the stage. Better than a rotten tomato, right?
So why ducks? Is there some strong local connection with the waterfowl?
No. The answer from Driscoll is much simpler: "Because they float down the river."
World's Biggest Lobster Roll?
What's the trickiest thing about making the world's longest lobster roll? A hint: It has nothing to do with lobster.
"I think the hardest part is probably going to make sure the bun comes out correctly," said Alan A. Casucci, a spokesman for Linda Bean's Perfect Maine, a lobster company.
Linda Bean's Perfect Maine is joining with the Portland, Maine, community group West End Neighborhood Association to build what they hope will be a record-setting lobster roll on June 7.
If all goes according to plan, the roll will be 60 feet in length, with 45 pounds of meat donated by Linda Bean's.
Of course, a 60-foot lobster roll will require a 60-foot bun. The creation of that bun, Casucci said, will fall to two local bakeries -- Amato's and J.J. Nissan -- which will bake the roll in an industrial oven. A flatbed truck will be used to carry the bun from the oven to the site of Portland's annual Old Port Fest, where school children will help stuff the roll.
Four-inch-long slices of the roll, along with a drink and a bag of potato chips, will be sold for a donation of $20 each. The donations will be used to help fund summer swimming lessons for children living in Portland's West End.
The event was conceived by Michael Whittaker, a Portland librarian and a member of the West End Neighborhood Association. An event involving lobster was the natural choice, Whittaker said.
"We are here in Maine after all," Whittaker said. "It is the iconic Maine treat."
For some people, nothing says summer like an amusement park. At the end of this month, 250 people are expected to gather in Disneyland in California to try and ride every single attraction in the park in a day.
That's a lot of teacups, roller coasters and animatronic characters.
The event, dubbed Gumball Rally, costs $24.99 per person. That's not including the separate theme park admission. The competition is sponsored by MiceChat.com, a Web site devoted to Disney news and rumors. (Disney is the parent company of ABC News.)
There will be some judges scattered throughout the park, but for the most part it's on the honor system. To prove that team members actually went on the ride, organizers will quiz participants. For example, someone at the start of the day could be asked "How many left turns are there in Space Mountain?"
Or, "We might ask what color is the scarf on the pirate captain's neck," said Todd Regan, organizer of the event and owner of MiceChat.
Disney at its Best
There are roughly 50 attractions at Disneyland and 50 more at Disney's California Adventure. Participants get points for each ride completed. More points are awarded to those rides that take longer or have big lines. This is the third race at Disneyland.
Prizes include medals for the first, second and third place winners, a gumball machine with "Gumball Rally" engraved in glass and other Disney items. Registration closes Saturday.
But don't expect to push your way through the crowds or cut lines. There are rules here, people.
Participants have to be "the model park guest." That means no running, no cheating, no cutting in lines and no disrupting anyone else in the park that day. Everybody on the team must be on every ride.
And just like any good marathon or race, there is a carb-loading, pre-rally pasta party.
"We are Disney fans and you can only go to a theme park so many times before it maybe loses a little bit of its charm. It was just a different way for us to experience the parks," Regan said. "What we found was after that first event, people who had been going to Disneyland their whole lives came up to us -- some of them near tears -- saying how much fun they had."
Nothing says seaworthy like a boat built out of cardboard. Well, maybe not. But next month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about 50 teams plan to race boats built out of nothing but cardboard and maybe some glue and tape.
Teams race along a 200-yard course on Robbins Lake at Ellis Park, according to Ann Virden of the Freedom Festival, a summer-long event aimed at bringing people to town. The goal is to complete three legs of the race.
"If they are not disqualified by sinking their first time around, they can move on to the next heat," Virden said.
Similar regattas are being held this year in Illinois, Washington, New York, Michigan and elsewhere.
But this race isn't just about speed. Just like the Olympics, there are plenty of points for style.
Sailing Taken to a New Level
There is an award for the most spectacular or prettiest-looking boat, one for the best use of corrugated cardboard, one for the best-dressed team and one for team spirit. And finally, there is the Titanic Award, given to the ship -- if we can call it that -- with the "most spectacular sinking."
Virden said that some local radio stations compete. One team two years ago had a "Paris Hilton jailbreak"-themed ship. They all wore prison jumpsuits. The local Navy sailors make their cardboard look like something the military would actually use. Others design kayak-like vessels.
"It brings a lot of people out into the community," Virden said.
One of the oldest and best-known summer events is the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Nothing says summer like stuffing your face full of hot dogs until you can't eat anymore.
The waterfront event is probably the best-known competitive eating competition. Only the reigning champ or somebody who earns their way in through other competitions is allowed to compete. In the last few years, ESPN (also owned by Disney) started broadcasting the competition.
Last year's challenge was won by Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., who beat Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano, Japan in a five-dog overtime. Both men had ate 59 Nathan's dogs and buns in the 10-minute regulation match.
Chestnut finished his overtime plate of five hotdogs in 50 seconds, seven seconds before Kobayashi.
After all that food, we just hope they didn't try to go on any of the rides at Disneyland, let alone all of them.