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PEPPERELL — Perhaps aided by a postponement from May 20 to June 17, the third annual Pepperell Business Association (PBA) Duck Race down the Nissitissit River, from the Turner’s Falls bridge to the Mill Street bridge, generated a $2,500 first prize for the lucky winner who purchased duck number 719.

“This was our biggest yet,” said PBA President Chris Hayes.

More than 70 residents lined the banks of the river and stood atop the Mill Street bridge when word came downstream that the ducks were in the water at 2:01 p.m.

Fifteen minutes later, four or five little yellow plastic ducks appeared in the lead out of the hundreds that had been dumped into the water at Hollis Street. Five kayakers followed the paddling — a flock of ducks is called a “paddling” or a “raft” — to make sure none became wedged behind rocks or tree roots.

Second place and a $200 U.S. Savings Bond went to the owner of duck number 1041. Third place generated a $100 bond for the owner of duck number 246.

Downstream, a chicken wire net strung across the river snared all the participants. The finish line, a yellow rope stretched across the water, was manned by Jack Pillsbury, Richard Egan and Chester Babineau. Pillsbury pulled the winning duck from the water, its once-sizable lead shrunk to inches in the final current swirling under the rope.

Hayes said a considerable number of duck purchases had been made that day at the PBA tent, set up in the Shattuck Oil parking lot at the intersection of Mill and Groton streets.

Money remaining in the PBA account after winners are paid will be given as scholarships to North Middlesex Regional High School and Nashoba Valley Technical High School students. — Don Eriksson

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