Havre de Grace duck stays aloft for new year

December 30, 2006|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,sun reporter

In Havre de Grace, it just doesn't feel like New Year's without a duck dropping from the sky.

Since the turn of the millennium, at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, the town has dropped a wooden 6-foot-by- 8-foot duck from a hook-and-ladder firetruck, as fireworks exploded in the night sky. Havre de Grace is the duck decoy capital of the world. Or so it says.

But this year, the duck will not fall. The Fire Department's hook-and-ladder truck was retired, and a new truck is not yet in service. So the duck, covered in 400 lights to depict its plumage, will be suspended from the tallest building in town, the 150-foot J.M. Huber Co. building, and lit at 11:30 p.m.

"It's not quite dropping, but it's still looking pretty good this year," said Brigitte Layton, the Havre de Grace tourism and marketing manager, putting the best possible face on the duck debacle.

Havre de Grace is not alone in putting its own spin on the New York tradition of dropping a Waterford crystal ball in Times Square. In Key West, Fla., a drag queen named Sushi is dropped in a giant red high-heeled shoe. In Eastport, Maine, a 22-foot-long sardine is being dropped this year, The Boston Globe reported.

The dropping of the duck has drawn hundreds of people to the grounds of the Havre de Grace Middle School since it began on Dec. 31, 1999. But the town resident who organized that first drop moved out of state this year, and no one quite got organized. When it came time to plan this year's drop, the ladder truck was gone.

"I know the actual dropping - to see that duck floating slowly to the ground - was really quite fun to see," said Warren Hiss, a volunteer at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. "We don't have the millions that come out in New York, but it's the same atmosphere, only in a miniature way."

Hiss' wife, Jean, is a decoy carver who designed the wooden duck that was dropped last year. Their daughter, Nancy Berkman, was visiting for the holidays last year but had to return home to Oregon before she could see her mother's duck drop on New Year's Eve. She returned to see it this year, though.

"Now we aren't going to see it drop," Jean Hiss said.

Talk about a lame duck.


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