Come to Mama. You'll have lots of company.
Mama Duck, the world's largest known rubber ducky, will be making its Philadelphia-area debut on the Delaware River as part of the Tall Ships Festival Thursday afternoon.
Weighing in at 11 tons and soaring 61 feet, the duck, which has drawn throngs around the globe, will be pulled by a tug for part of the 1 p.m. Parade of Sail, said organizer Craig Samborski of Minnesota-based Draw Events.
Then, for the rest of the festival, which ends Sunday, this mountain of yellow vinyl with the friendly countenance will reign over the Camden waterfront. It will rest atop a pontoon about 100 feet from land, in the august company of those majestic ships on both sides of the river. Get ready for the selfies.
"It's going to be fabulous," Samborski said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime event in one of the most beautiful ports in the world."
He was talking about the festival as a whole. But if history holds true, the duck will be quite a draw.
Last August in Los Angeles, according to Samborski, at the Tall Ships Festival he was involved in organizing there, "the power of the duck" helped draw nearly 280,000 people, which in turn had a $10 million impact on the local economy.
Some of the ship people weren't too pleased with all the attention that was going to the duck, but then they saw that a lot of the people coming were staying to visit their ships, said the organizer.
"I think we introduced a lot of people to the tall-ships world," he said.
The Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman created his first giant inflatable duck and displayed it in Amsterdam in 2007.
Since then, versions of his creation have been shown in far-flung ports of call, from Sao Paulo to Sydney. According to published reports, it prompted a rubber ducky craze in Hong Kong, where it drew throngs for over a month. When it deflated in Taiwan in harsh weather, media accounts say, there were calls for 10 seconds of silence.
In Pittsburgh, the city that gave the world Andy Warhol and yarn-bombed a bridge, as many as one million people came to see the visiting duck two years ago.
"The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn't discriminate people and doesn't have a political connotation," Hofman wrote on his website.
But that doesn't mean all is ducky.
Hofman could not be reached for comment, but Samborski said the artist is claiming Samborski does not have the right to show the duck without paying more money.
The event organizer said Hofman was paid about $50,000 for plans to build a duck for the Los Angeles festival. Samborski, then working with a different company, said all Hofman provided was what he characterized as line drawings.
"Our duck had to be completely reengineered," he said.
Visitphilly.com, the city's visitor site, credits the duck to Hofman.
Whether the duck ends up being paddled into court remains to be seen. Barring new developments, however, it doesn't look as if the dispute is going to disrupt the enjoyment of those who will be smiling into their phone cameras with a massive yellow creature bobbing in the background.
Samborski has been playing it safe with what is being billed as the World's Largest Rubber Duck.
He refused to disclose where the duck is being stored except to say it was a "secure facility."
The duck will not be displayed until the Parade of Sail, say festival organizers. It will be inflated each morning and deflated each evening. During festival hours, two duck captains will keep an eye on it from rubber craft in the river, said Samborski. Meanwhile, Rocky, a 10-foot "baby" duck, has been making the rounds at different locations to call attention to the event.
And how did Camden get the big duck?
"It's one event. It's not two events," Samborski said. "We're balancing the various assets we have on both sides of the river."