COLCHESTER’S famous duck race has inspired a similar event across the Pond in America raising funds for those affected by the murder of George Floyd.

The first Minnehaha Creek contest took place in Minnesota and was the brainchild of Francesco Marraffa, who grew up in north Essex and competed in the Castle Park version in the 1990s.

It helped bring joy to the south Minneapolis neighbourhoods bordering George Floyd Square - a protest and memorial site at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

It was there police officer Derek Chauvin murdered Mr Floyd last May by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.

It sparked a global protest movement about police violence and racism and in order to promote calm, and try to put smiles on faces, 2,000 rubber ducks were put into Minnehaha Creek - following the template set on the River Colne.

Mr Marraffa, 43, organised the event and said: “Last year was a difficult one in Minneapolis.

Special memories - Francesco Marraffa guiding the ducks and paddling the River Colne

Special memories - Francesco Marraffa guiding the ducks and paddling the River Colne

“There’s a lot of emotion and hurt here because of what happened.

“However, by coming together as one, and given the amount of people who showed up, it proves there’s a lot of love left in our community. This event brought us together in a fun way.”

Each duck was sponsored and all money raised will go back to those in need.

“We’re allocating it to the businesses and people who have been affected by the happenings at George Floyd Square,” added Mr Marraffa.

“The duck race was always great fun and what I helped organise was based totally on the times when I was involved with the Colchester event in the 90s.

“We would paddle alongside the ducks, trying to coax them down river.

“They were fairly large - or perhaps I was just small - and many had injuries, hovering between being fully submerged and just plain sunk.

“I remember people being pretty passionate and excited by the leading duck, wanting to know which number was winning but if we got too close they would scream at us.

“I became president of our neighbourhood group board a few months ago and suggested the idea.

“I recalled how great it was to watch and how families would come out for the event.

“I wanted to try something similarly fun and positive in our community.”

Francesco grew up in Colchester and his mum still lives in the town. He was a member of Colchester Canoe Club and the 1st Colchester Air Scouts.

He moved to America 15 years ago and lives in Minnesota, a mid-western state bordering Canada and Lake Superior.