Rubber Duckie, Buffalo’s going to be awfully fond of you.
Mama Duck woke up in the Buffalo River near Canalside just before 6 a.m. Friday in preparation for a three-day visit to the Buffalo Maritime Festival.
Billed as the “World’s Largest Rubber Duck,” the bright yellow, vinyl duck rises six stories above the river at the tip of Kelly Island.
“I have to admit, I don’t completely understand it, but people are so excited about this big yellow duck,” said Sam Hoyt, regional president of Empire State Development Corp. “It’s not just Buffalo. Wherever this duck goes, it draws tens of thousands of people.”
Ryan Whaley can vouch for that.
The idea, like so many good ideas, started over some beers. That brain storming event occurred in Los Angeles a couple years ago between Whaley of Sandusky, Ohio, and co-owner Craig Samborski.
Since then, Mama Duck has grabbed headlines anywhere she goes.
“I don’t want to say there’s a secret ingredient other than to say it attracts a lot of attention,” Whaley said. “It’s sure-fire gold.”
Gold for every 2-year-old like Aubryn Meyer: “Oooh, look at the duckie!”
For the couple dozen 5-to-12-year-olds from the Clarence Travel Camp and their Millennialish chaperones at the Independent Health Family Branch YMCA.
“This is our field trip of the day,” explained a group leader Zach Grulich. “This was the highlight – to see the duck.”
And, for Peter DeLisle, a Kenmore grandfather visiting Canalside with his daughter and grandson.
“The bathtub is not big enough,” DeLisle quipped.
Gold is just what Mama Duck looked like against the backdrop of the Skyway, the grain elevators on the Outer Harbor and the gray eminence of USS Little Rock.
After visits this year to Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, Green Bay and Duluth, Minn., Mama Duck was clearly excited to see the Queen City.
What was expected to be a nearly three-hour inflation process for the 61-foot-tall duck was completed in only 90 minutes.
Someone at Canalside joked that it was because Buffalo’s got “more hot air” than most.
Whaley played diplomat, insisting Mama Duck couldn’t wait to be here.
The giant yellow duck was inflated with a pair of internal blowers and a third umbilical cord-like blower at Mama Duck’s rear-end.
Besides being 61 feet tall, “Mama Duck” is 89 feet long and has a wing span of 71 feet.
And, she weighs a ton. One full ton.
Mama floats upon a large 10-ton steel pontoon. When it’s time for her to go home – or, at least down to Erie, Pa., for her next stop – the air will be taken out of her and she’ll be stuffed into a 10-by-14-foot shipping crate.
Imagine trying to get your favorite gift back in the box Christmas morning.
“It’s that times 100,” Whaley said.
Accompanying Mama Duck to Buffalo is her duckling, Timmy. He’s 10 feet tall.
Timmy was expected to go on a little ride uptown Friday aboard the “Duck Truck,” a 2016, Ford F-150 pickup supplied by West Herr Automotive, the sponsor of the duck family’s visit to Buffalo.
Pimped out in yellow and orange, with feathers drawn onto the side-panels, the truck will transport Timmy to Roswell Park Cancer Institute today, according to Matt Lasher, West Herr’s marketing director.
“We want to bring him to people who can’t come down to Canalside this weekend,” Lasher said.
The Buffalo Maritime Festival opens with a variety of activities for water lovers and landlubbers from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Both Mama Duck and Timmy can be seen – and photographed – all day Friday through Sunday evening. Boaters are advised to give them a wide berth, especially if there is wind.
In conjunction with the festival, Old Boats Buffalo will hold its 39th annual Antique and Classic Boat Show.