Clad in black and gold, about 3,000 students barreled into the Reflecting Pond to celebrate UCF’s 21st annual Spirit Splash Friday afternoon.
Some attended with the hope of snagging their first themed rubber duck while others were looking to grow their collection.
A countdown clock ticked away centerstage as UCF’s cheerleaders, Knightro and Homecoming court entertained the crowd. UCF basketball coach Johnny Dawkins spoke about the team’s members as well as his first experience at Spirit Splash.
“This is amazing,” Dawkins said. “Take a look around you … Our strength at UCF is in numbers.”
Before the duck frenzy, students chucked their flips-flops into the air, splashed each other with water and chanted in unison “We want ducks!” But ducks weren’t the only coveted item at Spirit Slash.
Students began to line up at 7:30 a.m. to receive an exclusive Spirit Splash T-shirt. By noon, the line snaked behind the Education building.
UCF graduate student Carlie King, 23, was one of the first students to get in line. Today marked King’s sixth consecutive year attending Spirit Splash, which has become a staple of UCF Homecoming Week.
“It’s so much fun,” King said. “You get to meet new people and get a duck and shirt. Next year will be seven years, and it’ll be my last.”
Students came with strategies, snacks and swimming gear in preparation for the main event. A handful of Knights brought fishing and butterfly nets to try to catch multiple ducks in one scoop.
Rachel Vangham, 21, a senior marketing student, said she brought her net for good luck.
“It was my roommate’s net she used before, and she’s always caught a duck,” Vangham said. “We call it our sacred net.”
Nearly just as many students were observing the duck hunt as those who were participating. Priyal Patel, a freshman biomedical student, 19, was happy to sit back and watch this year in preparation of trying to get a duck next year.
“It’s good for UCF to have a tradition like this,” Patel said. “It brings more students and kids together.”
Students who still wanted to be involved without getting wet found a happy medium by volunteering at the event. Catalina Zamora, 18, a freshman criminal justice major, manned a T-shirt table with four other volunteers.
“It’s a great way to get involved,” Zamora said. “I’m excited overall, especially since it’s the 21st year. It’s a new experience for me and it’s UCF’s No. 1 tradition.”
After a fireworks show at 9 p.m. tonight, UCF’s Homecoming game and announcement of the 2016 Homecoming king and queen will take place Saturday evening, followed by the Kidz Carnival on Sunday afternoon.