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Economy & Business

Rubber Duck Leaves Mark

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 WESA

On a typical weekday in October about 70 visitors will wander in and out of the Fort Pitt Block House in Point State Park, since Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duck has been floating in the Allegheny River that number has grown by nearly 600 percent.

“It’s just been crazy,” said Block House curator Emily Weaver who has seen weekend visitation shoot through the roof.  “It’s been a lot like having the Three Rivers Regatta here every week.  It’s just been crazy.”

The Block House has been so busy that Weaver experienced something she has never seen before: a line to get in to see the 250-year-old structure. 

In October of 2012 a total of 1,674 people visited the defensive redoubt, in the first 16 days of this October 10,464 had stood inside the oldest authenticated structure in western Pennsylvania.

No official economic impact numbers are available but the Block House is not unique.  The Duquesne Incline has seen a bump in the number of riders and so has Just Ducky Tours of Pittsburgh.

“Usually this time of year we are starting to wind down for the season… usually on weekends were running four boats, right now we’re still running six,” said Just Ducky Tours Director of Marketing Christina Robertson.  “It’s been a great addition to Pittsburgh.”

It seems the link between looking at a giant rubber duck and taking a tour in a World War Two duck boat was a no brainer for many.  “We didn’t really do much marketing for it, the rubber duck has done the marketing for us,” Robertson said.

Emily Weaver also never got around to her plans to post something on Facebook or a sign near the duck.

“When the duck arrived it was just a whirlwind.  I didn’t even get a chance to go down and see the duck face to face until a few days ago because its been so busy,” Weaver said.

While restaurants and hotels are praising the duck for bring in out of town visitors that leave their cash, Weaver is happy to see the locals passing through her free attraction.

“Believe it or not the hardest demographic to reach for the Block House is local visitors, people from the Pittsburgh area, and with the duck being here it’s brought in a lot more Pittsburgh visitors and the number one thing they say every time they come in the Block House is ‘we never knew this was here,’” Weaver said.

The number of volunteers has also increased according to Weaver.

The rubber duck is set to leave its nest Sunday.