DEMING - Early Saturday morning hot air balloons filled the Deming sky to kick off the 37th annual Great American Duck Race weekend. The festival brings in people from all around the southwest to for the live duck races that are run on wet and dry tracks. Races which began in 1980 as a small, fun event for the community.
The GADR officially began Thursday with the crowning of Chanel Vasquez as Duck Queen. The official races began at noon on Saturday at noon at McKinley Duck Downs (Luna County Courthouse Park). Festivities at the event included legendary competitions such as the Great American Horseshoe Tournament, The Great American Tortilla Toss, Tournament of Ducks parade and many others. Entertainment was the order of business with various carnival rides, live music and many types of fan favorite carnival food.
Traditionally, duck racing is performed on both wet and dry tracks and a cash prize is awarded to the fastest duck during Sunday's race final. The ducks reach that race by a process of elimination. Saturday served as preliminary heats.
Hot air balloons
“We live here in town, but we’re just starting the whole duck race festivities,” said Mike Bonenfant as the sun crept over the early morning hot air balloon ascension. “Its nice that we have something like this locally.”
Pilots from as far as Arizona joined in the Solitaire Homes Hot Air Balloon Mass Ascension – The first ascension in two years at the duck races. Poor weather conditions grounded the balloons.
Duck fans crowded the Downs after 10 a.m., many gathered in anticipation for the Great American Tortilla Toss sponsored by Deming MainStreet Program and Amigo’s Mexican Foods. Special tortillas were made for contestants of all ages to hurl for the farthest distance. Winners received cash prizes and bragging rights until next year’s toss.
“It sounded like something fun to do,” said John Lowther of Tuscon, AZ. “People have been great, food has been wonderful – the duck races were a blast and we enjoyed the toss. Why not throw a tortilla?”
Lowther is a first-time duck race visitor and said he plans to bring members of his family next year to have them share the duck racing experience.
Winners of the toss include Lloyd Valentine in six and under division, Sebastian Lescombs in the seven to 12 co-ed division, Freya Delgadillo in the 13-16 co-ed division, Yadira Macias and David Beasley won in the adult categories and Gilbert Estrada took first in the 55 plus division. Beasley was the returning champion of last year’s toss and remains to defend his title until next year.
The PNM Tournament of Ducks Parade presented by the Deming-Luna County Chamber of Commerce drew more than 100 entries and took the city by storm with an hour-long procession through the streets of downtown Deming.
Mimbres Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home stole the show with their first-place float.
Second place went to annual favorite Solitaire Homes.
Deming Orthodontics walked off with a bright smile in third place.
All three winners were local businesses.
Twenty-five teams jumped at the chance to pitch horseshoes Saturday at McKinley Duck Downs for a chance at prize money. Teams of doubles partners competed in a double-elimination bracket while ducks were racing on wet and dry tracks, vendors were vending, and entertainment acts were performing and tortilla were flying.
When the last shoe hit the stake, Bob Swain and Sam Hill collected $250 for first place. Abel Flores Sr. and Abel Flores Jr. pocketed the second-place share of $150. Third place of $100 went to Frankie Morales and Bubba De La Torres.
The Washers Tournament drew a dozen doubles teams on Sunday to close out the competitions at McKinley Duck Downs.
Sonny Jaurequi teamed with Rudy Chavez to split the first-place share of $120. Jose Maldonado and Manuel Ruiz split $70 for coming in second place and Martin Ruiz and Leo Gutierrez shared $50 as the third-place team.
A Weekend of Duck Racing