They call it ‘The World’s Largest Rubber Duck’ and it’s in Sault Ste. Marie until Saturday as part of Redpath Sugar’s Ontario 150 Tour and Rotaryfest.
The 61-foot-tall, 30,000 lb yellow duck — nicknamed Mama Duck by its owners — has caused some controversy because a $120,000 grant from the Ontario government was used to rent it as it travels through five Ontario cities over the course of a month and a half.
On Thursday afternoon, just after the duck was inflated, Rotaryfest goers gave mostly positive reviews of the duck itself though there was some criticism over whether or not provincial tax money should have been used for it.
“It’s a wasteful way to spend $120,000 — on a giant rubber ducky. We’re Canadians we don’t have rubber duckies. We have beavers, geese, moose — but even then, over $100,000 is a giant waste of cash. Its money that could have gone towards our kids education fund, straight towards our healthcare fund, it could have gone towards our roads, it could have gone towards something other than a bureaucratic (nonsense) thank you kindly," said festival-goer Armine Mann.
The sentiment was echoed by deep-fried Mars bar cook Dan Rivard of Twisted Taters.
“It looks alright but, for that price, I would have never paid that,” he said.
Rib-stand owner Kraig Rowe of ‘The Hog Father’ believes the duck has already paid for itself.
“I think the duck alone will bring people here... This was a great start to the day. We just opened and we had a beautiful line and we didn’t have to do anything for it… it probably has a lot to do with that duck…and it’s drawing a crowd. I guarantee people will come to see it,” said the owner.
Tax money aside, no one disputed its aesthetic glory.
Bree Elliot, 13, found it difficult to express how she felt about the six-story inflatable duck.
Looking at the duck from afar she stared at it and, although carefully thinking about her words, could only utter, “it’s beautiful”.
Her step-dad said that she wanted to go up to it and hug it.
“That duck has got to be the magnificent thing I’ve ever seen,” said Meghan Lee, a volunteer with the Summit Church’s concessions booth.
The idea for the duck actually came up during a round of beers at San Pedro Brewing Company, near Los Angeles, said one of the duck’s owners Craig Samborksi,
Samborski is a Minnesotan whose other gig is organizing tall ships festivals.
Someone with him at the bar said ‘you’re a nice event producer form Minnesota Craig, but in L.A. we go big or we go home and we need to do something big.’
They then came up with the zany idea of creating the world's largest rubber duck he said.
Samborski said the next day he started looking up companies who could build the duck and within a week they had all their quotes and estimates in and were ready to go.
“She creates a big attraction,” said Samborksi. “In Los Angeles, when we did an event there, they made us close early each day because there were too many people getting down to see her, it created a traffic jam on the 110 freeway and Pacific Coast Highway, which isn’t good. Last year she created a traffic jam.”
While in most cities the duck floats on water — it's sold with the slogan 'The World is Her Bathtub' — in the Sault it is planted firmly on land, in Clergue Park.
Samborksi said the event organizers thought the currents were too strong in the St. Mary's River.
The Ontario 150 Tour started off in Toronto on July 1, then went Owen Sound before arriving in the Sault for July 13-15.
Its next stop will be Midland on July 21-23, then Amhersterberg from August 5-6, before finishing in Brockville from August 10-13.