'Mama Duck' not all she was quacked up to be, deflates again

Mama Duck sits deflated Saturday, June 27, 2015, at Wiggins Marina in Camden. (Joseph Kaczmarek/For The Inquirer)

For 45 shining minutes Saturday morning, a massive yellow duck rose proudly above the Camden waterfront, ready once again to entertain the crowds that had flocked to see the 61-foot-tall waterfowl, billed as the largest rubber duck in the world.

But as winds buffeted the Wiggins Marina, the inflatable beast known as Mama Duck was deflated once more, to the chagrin of spectators.

The duck, in town as part of the four-day Tall Ships festival, has had a rough week. On its way down the Delaware River on Thursday, the pontoon boat towing it sprang a leak and began taking on water, said Ryan Whaley, spokesman for the group that organized the show, Draw Events.

Saturday's weather also forced cancellation of a Tall Ships concert Saturday and the postponement of fireworks until Sunday.

The duck's problems began Thursday, when its beak was torn as it was pulled from the water, Whaley said. Draw employees worked to repair it; with vinyl patches always on hand, they are prepared for setbacks, he said.

"There are always little holes we have to patch," he said. "It's like a very large bicycle tube."

By 10 a.m. Saturday, after a five-hour reinflation, Mama was buoyant once more. But the winds were too much for her - the duck can withstand gusts only of about 15 knots, and Saturday's forecast called for stronger winds. Draw Events decided to deflate the duck.

The mood along the riverfront was subdued.

"I have to warn you, the duck's sleeping right now," said a Camden County sheriff's deputy directing traffic near the marina.

Still, tourists lined up to snap photos with a smaller duck, the 10-foot-tall Rocky, who is made of sturdier stuff than Mama and able to withstand higher winds.

Harry Phillips and son Toby, of Sterling, Va., sat on a bench and watched as Mama Duck, by now a blob of yellow vinyl, billowed in the wind. In town mostly for the tall ships, they had seen the duck across the river and crossed the bridge, hoping that it would still be inflated by the time they reached Camden.

"We thought it would be like the phoenix that could rise from the ashes," Harry said. Alas, said Toby's friend Chris Kenedy: "It was like a dream that couldn't quite inflate."

Whaley said his team hopes to have Mama Duck reinflated by Sunday, when winds are forecast to ease. He said he was disappointed to have to bring down the duck but wasn't giving in to despair.

"At the end of the day, we're talking about a 61-foot rubber duck," he said, laughing. "There are other things to worry about. And we'll see the duck again."


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