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Royal Deeside community comes together for Ballater Duck Festival

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It is that time of year again when our calendars are full of exciting events, including the return of the Ballater Duck Festival.

Peter Vermeulen, chairman for the Duck Festival, discusses why the event is sure to be a wonderful day out for all of the family.

What is the Ballater Duck Festival?

The Duck Festival centres around racing 12 tall inflatable ducks down the river Dee with the winning duck being the first to reach the Royal Bridge in Ballater.

We also have in excess of 70 craft, trade, food and entertainment stalls. The entertainment is for all ages from young children to young-at-heart centennials.

Not to be left out there will be donkey rides, cup and saucers, a bouncy castle and bungee trampolines for our younger guests, and then there will be stocks where you can practise your accuracy by throwing wet sponges at some unfortunate person.

If you wish to have a wee flutter, we have the Human Fruit Machine. Finally we have our local Rotary Club of Aboyne and Upper Deeside supporting us by managing the tote for the main event of the day – the Giant Duck Race on the River Dee.

Where did the idea originally come from?

The Duck Festival was born after the terrible flooding in Ballater in December and January 2015 and 2016. A few like-minded folks got together to scheme-up something to help bring some life and joy back to Ballater after the flooding – and The Ballater Duck Festival was born.

The Duck Festival has been growing and improving over the past three years as the committee continually strives to improve the festival for both the public and all the stall holders.

How long does it take to plan?

We start our meetings in mid-January to decide how we are going to run the festival this year, and then we start contacting stall holders and sponsors for the ducks.

Our meetings become more frequent as we get closer to the festival itself. Then after the big day we have a close-out meeting to ensure any lessons learned are documented and will be acted on for the following year’s event. So there is a good six months of planning and preparations for each festival.

Are many local businesses involved?

This year we have 12 businesses sponsoring ducks, however, many more businesses are involved whether it be through advertising or bringing a stall to help promote their wares. We like to think we are holding the Duck Festival as much to have fun as for the benefit of the Ballater businesses to help footfall in the village.

Any changes from last year?

We have a few larger ducks this year compared to last year. Quite a lot larger.

We also have some very good free live music on our stage again this year – Aboyne Academy pupils, Ballater Primary School choir, Ukulele Band and Samba Band.

We have included some new banners to signpost and help encourage more people inside the Glenaden hotel where we have more stall holders who prefer their wares to be shown indoors rather than outside.

Why should people travel to Ballater for the festival?

There will be lots of different stall holders offering a large variety of crafts complemented by some wonderful food vendors – and then we have amazing kids entertainment topped off by the highlight of the festival when we have the Duck Race on the river.

The winning duck will be paraded from the bridge up to the centre of the village where the winning sponsor will be awarded the Royal Deeside Quack Quiach and he or she will have bragging rights for the next 12 months.

How big are the ducks?

Our original ducks were 4.5ft tall, our new ducks are 6ft tall.

What is your favourite part of the event?

Seeing so many people enjoying themselves both on the green in the centre of Ballater and then the huge crowds watching the Duck Race itself. But the highlight is the parade when the winning duck is paraded up the street by the wonderful Ballater Pipe Band followed by the crowd.

The Duck Festival is a one-day event running from 10am until 4pm on Sunday June 3. See www.facebook.com/ballaterduckfestival

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