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Ducks race down the river for Apple Blossom Festival

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HARVARD — Like the seasonal bloom for which it is named, the Apple Blossom Festival is a spring tradition in this small New England town where historic fixtures and geographic features meld like ingredients in a prize-winning recipe. Apple orchards dot the rolling hills, and the center where the festival is held looks like a postcard.

The Apple Blossom Festival was originally a Couples Club event. Sponsorship then segued to the Rotary Club serving Ayer, Devens, Harvard and Shirley, which picked up the festival 16 years ago. Lifelong Harvard resident and longtime event Chairman Martin Poutry credits that connection to fellow Rotarian and town resident Paul VonLoesecke.

”He latched on to it,” Poutry said.

One reason the link has worked so well is the Ducky Wucky River Race, a popular, end-of-day event added by the Rotary Club to spark more interest in the annual festival. Numbered rubber ducks — adopted for $5 apiece or five for $20 — are dumped into the Nashua River and captured downstream, in their order of arrival.

The winners receive prizes donated by area merchants. The first prize is a dinner for two anywhere in the world, with transportation and 2-night hotel stay. Prizes are awarded for the next 73 ducks to cross the line.

The race culminates a full day of activities, shopping, entertainment and family fun. Vendors and organizations rent 10 by 10 foot spaces and set up tables and booths on a bring-your-own basis. To date, there are still several spaces available for rent.

Typically, the arts, crafts and commerce on the common on festival day ranges from displays and demonstrations by the Fire and Ambulance Departments, to local organizations such as the Lions Club selling hot dogs and hamburgers, to the Harvard Garden Club selling potted plants complete with green-thumb advice. The fair-like atmosphere includes photographers, jewelry-makers, bakers and vendors offering an array of fares and wares while enticing aromas and the sound of music waft over the crowd.

The 54th annual Apple Blossom Festival will be held on May 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the town common.

For rental information, or to adopt a ducky for the river race, call (978) 772-2766.

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