The "Great Overton Duck Race" is run to raise funds for St Mary's Hall. It began as a one-off event, but has since become something of an annual occurance, raising in excess of £25,000 for the hall's facilities so far.
How it all began.
In 2005, Overton Parish Council had a pot of money it decided to share between the three halls in the village. Rather than just donate it, OPC opted to provide it as 'matched funding'. If a hall could raise £10,000 during the year, the Parish Council pledged to match it with a further £10,000. Members of St Mary's Hall's committee immediately set about devising fund raising schemes. Table-Top Sales, a "Santa Racing" night (also now an annual event), skittles nights and gigs got the ball rolling, but it was during an evening stroll by the river that the idea of the Duck Race was born.
The first staging of the event took four weeks to organise and consisted of eight races of 100 ducks each race and a Grand Final. With the permission of Portals Properties (now Portals De La Rue Ltd), the race was held along a stretch of the River Test through was is known locally as Flashetts. In total it raised over £1,200 for the fund. With the help of "Friends of St Mary's" other hall users and Overton Dramatic Society, the £10,000 was reached inside 12 months and the matched funding secured.
The Race Develops.
As with any venue of this kind, the projects that need funding are constant. The Duck Race was repeated the following year, with more ducks, more attractions and sponsorship from local groups and businesses. After two years, it had become an institution. People began to ask when it would take place and would look forward to the afternoon spent watching plastic ducks competing along the river. Only in England.
With the continued support of the people of Overton, and those who travel to visit the event, it has continued to raise funds for projects such as the hall's sound system, boiler, garden, new chairs and tables.