Time in Pittsburgh running out for beloved inflatable duck

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What happens to the duck?

That is the question as the exhibition of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman's giant floating yellow water fowl draws to a close on Steelers Sunday.

Will the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which owns the duck, keep it, deflate it, sell it or send it out with a bang?

The owner "has not made any determination of future plans," according to Trust spokeswoman Shaunda Miles, but she did confirm this: No going away party similar to the launch event on the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Sept. 27.

There will, however, be a Friday morning press event in Point State Park, where the duck is moored, to report, for example, the estimated number of visitors.

The crowds drawn by the duck also are benefiting other points of interest Downtown.

Officials of the Fort Pitt Block House in Point State Park today announced that they have seen interest in the historic structure soar since the rubber duck landed.

In just the first half of October, the block house has welcomed 10,000 visitors -- nine times the number (1,670) of those who visited during the same period last year. It has also sold more than $4,000 in souvenirs, compared with $890 in sales for the same time last year.

"It's like the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta every day," Emily Weaver, the Fort Pitt Block House site curator, said in a statement.

The block house, located near the entrance of the park, was constructed in 1764 as a defensive redoubt for Fort Pitt, a key British fortification during the French and Indian War. It is owned and operated by the Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Allegheny County since 1894.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Miles said, no one has approached the Trust about purchasing the oversized bathtub toy. But there have been calls from other cities that want a duck of their very own.

The duck came to town as part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, other versions having already appeared in cities around the world. Pittsburgh was the first in the United States.

When it departed Hong Kong in June, throngs of people gathered at Victoria Harbor for a send-off and the Harbor City shopping mall put this post on its Facebook page: "We are going to miss you so much Rubber Duck. Goodbye!"

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Sally Kalson: skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610. First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM


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