Murray Shackel has quietly helped make the annual Ducky 500 race a ‘blast’ for the past 17 years.
Every Canada Day, the 76-year-old has awoken early to go pick up the 1,000 pound HMCS Quadra cannon at the the cadet training grounds at Goose Spit and transport it to Lewis Park for the race.
Shackel, who has been an employee at Comox Slegg Lumber — formerly Comox Builders — for 21 years, was first asked to pick up the large cannon years ago.
“The company asked me to do it and I just kept on doing it,” said Shackel. “I just enjoy doing it, and seeing the people, and keeping the people happy.”
The cannon, which Shackel noted was built in 1899 and used mostly for training purposes, is blasted at 1 p.m. each July 1 to mark the start of the Rotary Club of Comox’s annual Ducky 500 race.
The duckies are set loose from Condensory Bridge on the Courtenay River, and they race down to the finish at the Fifth Street Bridge. After the first 10 duckies cross the finish line, the cannon is blasted once more.
Prizes are given out for the owners of tickets matching the first 10 duckies. The Comox Rotary Club sells ducky tickets to raise money for initiatives in the Comox Valley.
Shackel said he enjoys seeing the spectator excitement during the race, and everyone looks forward to the cannon blast at the end of the race.
“Oh, they all get excited because they’re wanting to see who won the Ducky 500 race,” he said.
After the race event is finished, Shackel loads the cannon back onto the large Slegg Lumber truck and takes it back to HMCS Quadra.
He noted he’d like to retire from the duty starting next year, but it’s quite tricky to load the cannon, and he told Slegg Lumber he can do it again next year if nobody else is able to.
“Probably wind up doing it,” he said, adding “I’ve got it down to a science.”