Duck tales: For throngs of visitors, the city was the place to be

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Now that was fun.

Downtown Pittsburgh was energized all weekend long, starting with the disconcerting sight of a gigantic yellow duck floating past The Point and throngs lining the banks of the Allegheny River and Clemente Bridge to greet it.

Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman turned a simple, childhood toy into a 40-foot-tall expression of joy, and his creation transported Pittsburghers of all ages back to the playful exuberance of 2-year-olds frolicking in a bathtub full of bubbles.

Driving and walking through the Cultural District was slow going during the arrival on Friday evening, but this was a happy crowd -- young families in town just to see Rubber Duckie, groups headed to one of the final performances in the month-long, sold-out run of "The Lion King" at the Benedum and the well-dressed set en route to the Pittsburgh Symphony's gala and performance featuring masterful cellist Yo-Yo Ma, aptly introduced by conductor Manfred Honeck as "The Prince of Charming."

All weekend long, people streamed into the city to pose for photographs with the duck against a backdrop of blue sky, bright sunshine and comfortable temperatures -- unscripted perfection. A University of Pittsburgh victory at Heinz Field on Saturday and a record 15,500 runners participating in the 36th annual Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday combined for a more-than-satisfying couple of days in the city.

The efforts of Pittsburgh's numerous philanthropies and foundations, as well as city officials and volunteers, have been lauded before for planning and executing successful Downtown pleasantries -- from First Night to the Fourth of July to Light-Up Night -- and they deserve credit for this past weekend as well. The biggest thank-you, though, goes to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, for bringing frivolity to the city in the form of a towering waterfowl.

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