Rubber duckie, I'm awfully fond of you: Red Wing duck travels the country
During the 2018 River City Days the Red Wing Your Outreach dropped about 3,000 rubber ducks into the river for a race to raise money for the organization. While some of the mighty ducks swam to the finish line, as they were instructed to do, a few floated out of bounds and out of race officials' reach.
Over the next couple of days, people collected the yellow, smiling ducks that washed up on shore and hunted them with nets and long polls. Henry, however, could not be caught.
Henry or No. 2194, as he was first known around town, floated into the American Queen.
When the Mark Veum, the captain, began to prepare to continue down the river, he heard a clunking coming from the boat's water systems. He explained that it is not uncommon to find seaweed or fish in the area, but a rubber duck was a new one for him.
When No. 2194 was brought on board, Veum decided to keep him around during his travels. When asked how Henry became "Henry," Veum explained that when he rescued the duck, he thought, "He's gotta be something besides 2194." The name Henry popped into his head and it stuck. (Now it's literally stuck on the duck with permanent ink).
Henry lived on the Queen for about eight months. Veum explained that as a boat captain, he usually works for four weeks and then has four weeks off. While Veum was working, Henry sat on his desk and enjoyed the ride.
Before Veum returned to the Twin Cities for his time off, he would stash Henry in different places on the boat to make sure that he did not escape and swim away again.
Along with keeping Henry on the boat, Veum tracked his travels. The Queen sails all year — on the Upper Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois rivers during the summer and lower Mississippi, Tennessee and Atchafalaya rivers in the winter.
Henry saw almost all of the Mississippi and sailed into the Gulf of Mexico. The little duck also saw one-fifth of the states in the United States: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Though Henry has earned his retirement from racing, he will be in town for this year's rubber duck race on Sunday, Aug. 4.
According to Mandy Arden, the director of Youth Outreach, this year there will only be 2,000 rubber ducks racing in the raffle. (Yes, just 2,000; the organization does, after all, have 5,000 rubber ducks packed in boxes on the second floor.) Those people holding the numbers of the first ducks to cross the line will win prizes donated by local organizations and stores. First place will be $1,000.
After bringing Henry home to Red Wing on Tuesday, April 16, Veum told Arden that having Henry along for his travels was "just a lot of fun ... I got a good smile out of it."