The giant rubber duck will fly Sunday from its Pittsburgh nest


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After hatching on Sept. 27, the duck is ready to leave the nest.

The 40-foot rubber duck, the brainbird of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman that has been floating in the Allegheny River just off of Point State Park the past few weeks, will fly out of town at 11 p.m. Sunday, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust said this morning.

Despite petitions to keep the duck here, the trust is sticking with its initial plan to remove the bird, coinciding with the Steelers vs. Ravens game Sunday at Heinz Field. At that point, the duck will be taken to an undisclosed location, cleaned, dried and put in storage at a warehouse in the South Side.

"It came in like a lion, let's let it go like a lamb," said Paul Organisak, vice president of programming for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The hype has far exceeded the Cultural Trust's expectations. More than a million people have visited the duck, according to estimates from the park and local hotels. That makes it the highest attended event in the trust's history, according to Mr. Organisak. Those numbers may increase after this final weekend, and don't even include those who viewed the bird from fowl territory, such as Mount Washington or the North Side.

Visitors from across the country and Canada have come to Pittsburgh to see the duck shining like a beacon on Pittsburgh's water. The vast majority of viewers were local, though, an estimated 95 percent, said Craig Davis, president and CEO of Visit Pittsburgh.

It is also worth its weight in duck pate, having generated tens of millions of dollars for the economy, Mr. Davis said, though it is difficult to fully assess the duck's monetary impact .

The Cultural Trust has distributed 30,000 pieces of merchandise. The Fort Pitt Block House has seen more than 10,000 visitors and generated $4,000 in souvenir sales this month alone, an increase from 1,670 visitors and $890 from last October.

So, what's next for the duck? A career on the Steelers offensive line or as a Penguins back-up goalie? Maybe a turn working in the natural gas ... quacking industry? Cultural Trust officials do not know, simply wanting to reflect on this month's experience, though it hasn't ruled out bringing the bird back for the occasional holiday. Contractually, it can't go anywhere else until January.

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Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1750 or on Twitter @BloomPG. First Published October 17, 2013 8:15 PM


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