Duck days are over for race organiser Giovanni

Duck race organiser Giovanni Mazzei is stepping down after 25yrs. Picture: Lisa FergusonDuck race organiser Giovanni Mazzei is stepping down after 25yrs. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Duck race organiser Giovanni Mazzei is stepping down after 25yrs. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
If you go down to Braidburn Valley Park on Sunday, May 13 you're sure of a big surprise as more than 800 ducks take over the burn as part of a school fundraising drive.

Giovanni Mazzai, 60, will be there herding the plastic ducks as he has been for the last 13 years but it will be with a heavier heart this year as it marks the last one he will organise. He said: “I’m getting a bit old for this caper so it’s time I hang up my boots.”

The free St Peter’s Primary event has grown significantly in the last five years with around 800 people cheering on the duck race and enjoying the stalls and events in the park last year. But this year to mark Giovanni’s departure the event is set to be even bigger.

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The race is expected to attract some high-profile punters including MSPs Ian Murray and Jeremy Balfour and Giovanni, a manager for Scottish Widows, has even invited the First Minister – but he hasn’t had her RSVP as yet. He has been actively involved with the school’s board and parent teacher association as treasurer and chair respectively since his oldest child started his education at the Morningside primary school 14 years ago. “It was a good way to meet people”, he said. “I really enjoyed being involved with the school and giving a bit back.”

In those days the fixture was a much smaller affair with only two yellow ducks on the race card. Things are a little different on his final fling with a number of races and an 18 inch inflatable duck that will take centre stage at the proceedings. People sponsor the ducks and the lucky few who pick the first six across the finish line will win a cash prize of up to £250.

He has high hopes of beating the previous record of raising a whopping £3200 on the day. “It’s weather dependent really but it’s such a great day that people still make an effort no matter what”, he said.

Tea, coffee, cakes and sandwiches will all be on the menu as well as activities provided by Edinburgh-based company Activity Delivered including archery, Nerf guns and hoverboards. To mark Giovanni’s final year there will be additional stalls and a burger van for the first time ever. He said: “It’s really like a massive birthday party for everyone.”

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The organisation of the race is a one-person affair but Giovanni has enlisted around 30 volunteers to help – some of whom will spend much of the day shin-deep in water guddling for ducks. He said: “It seems like a lot of work but I just get into the groove of it. I’m used to it by now.”

All funds raised are used by the school to finance summer fairs and other fundraisers.

Even though he’ll be leaving his duck days behind him, the father of three won’t be resting much with his role as treasurer of the local Scout group and as a football coach for St Peter’s continuing.

He said: “It just felt like the right thing to do to give my time. I’m not sure if I feel sad yet about leaving. Perhaps it will hit me on the day”