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The rubber turtles float toward the finish line. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
Kenneth Webb hands over a turtle so someone can look up the number and link it with whoever sponsored it in the race.
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Thousands of green rubber turtles were released Saturday during the Johnny Stallings Memorial Great Paris Turtle Float – an annual fund raiser benefitting the Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley.
Each turtle had a number on its bottom, and club officials had a notebook with the names of the person who had bought that particular number.
Winner of the $3,000 first prize was Clay Ambach. Second place and $2,000 went to David Blanton, and third place and $1,000 went to Dick Amis.
Ten $50 “quick pick” winners – the next 10 turtles plucked out of the water at the finish line – were Jerry Bassett, Robbie Morrow, John Wright, Pinky Wilson, Billie Lou Duncan, Mason White, Bruce Hood, Gary Pirtle, Coleman Lewis and Gordon Hogue.
Turtles could be sponsored for $10 each, or a “herd” of 11 for $100, and many of the supporters of the Boys & Girls club bought several herds.
The race honors the memory of Johnny Stallings, who died on Aug. 2, 2008, at the age of 46, from congenital heart disease. He was the son of Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings of Paris.
Johnny was known for his smile and his positive outlook on life. He never forgot the name of anyone he was introduced to, and he showed everyone he met, and even those he didn’t, that someone with Down syndrome or a disability could make a difference.
Both Johnny and his father are members of the Hall of Fame of the Boys & Girls Club of the Red River Valley.
At noon Saturday, on the east side of the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, the turtles were dumped into the south end of a stretch of concrete culvert that was cordoned off for the race.
An air gun was used to help speed the turtles along their journey 200 feet to the north, where officials waited to pull out the first ones to arrive.
Each turtle had a number on its bottom side. At a table underneath a tent nearby, club officials waited with a book containing the names of the people who sponsored turtles in the race.
Henry Shaw, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, announced the winners.
“We want to thank everyone for coming out to support this. See you again next year,” Shaw said.
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