Every year the same scene unfolds in the warm Florida sun: Thousands of college students in tank tops and bathing suits dance to music, splash in the water and generally act like overeager lunatics.
Does this familiar scene sound like spring break? It’s actually a unique fall event that was awarded “Best College Tradition” in 2011 by the National Association for Campus Activities: the annual Spirit Splash at the University of Central Florida.
During each Homecoming Week since 1995, thousands of students line up for hours to receive their Spirit Splash shirt and congregate around the Orlando, FL-based school’s Reflecting Pond. After a long countdown, students rush into the water for a chance at an even bigger prize: special themed rubber ducks that are tossed into the crowd.
“We want ducks,” the students chant, with some even carrying fishing and butterfly nets to try to scoop up the rubber mascots.
A few years ago, supplier CelebriDucks custom designed the ducks for Spirit Splash to resemble the school mascot, the UCF Trojan. And they lived on long after the Spirit Splash – they were featured on TV, in bowl games and at other UCF events.
“Collegiate is one of our most popular lines,” says Craig Wolfe, president of CelebriDucks. His company created the college duck line 15 years ago in response to a retailer’s request. “The Florida Gators were our first prototype, and once the concept was approved, my sales guy sold 100,000 of the ducks in two months,” he notes.
Since then, CelebriDucks has created school mascot ducks and other types – including one modeled after former Oregon Ducks football coach Mike Bellotti for a gameday giveaway.
CelebriDucks is working with a client that wants to take the ducks in a whole new direction, Wolfe says. The new line will be called Rubber Tubbers, and will feature a school mascot floating in an inner tube. “We are starting with The University of Southern California, and we hope to get it out in time for football season,” says Wolfe.
“We expect this to be as big, or even bigger than the whole CelebriDucks line,” he says. “We hope it will be the next bobblehead.”