Giant rubber duck has trouble inflating on test run

Is this a bad sign?

The folks who are bringing that 61-foot giant rubber duck to the Delaware River later this month held a photo op Monday to promote Tall Ships Philadelphia Camden, the sailing festival at which the world’s largest rubber duck will appear.

The eye candy was a smaller duck – just 10 feet tall.

Unforunately, the compressor they brought to inflate the duck was seriously underpowered. They got it partially inflated. Even that took two hours.

For perspective, it takes about four hours to inflate the large one.

No doubt everyone has a bad day. There’s proof of good days too: the smaller duck, and the giant one, have made appearances in Los Angeles. As photos show, it’s are pretty cool.

Waiting for the duck to be inflated gave Metro the opportunity to interview Craig Samborski, who staged concerts for the likes of Metallica and Jewel before moving on to produce maritime festivals (which, you know, when you learn that that’s a job, you realize anything is possible.)

“I never planned on owning the world’s largest rubber duck,” Samborski says.

But he does. And Samborski is sued to things happening in his line of work.

Sailboats are at the mercy of the elements, and there’s always the possibility that a ship won’t make it to the festival.In 2013 a boat on its way to a festival in Duluth, Minn. was struck by lightning. Everyone survived, Samborski says.

Out of the water, the duck itself is embroiled in art-world controversy over whether it pays proper respect to Dutch artist Florentjin Hofman. Hofman, whose whimsical work focuses on inflatables, created a giant rubber duck that travels the globe, and asks spectators to see the world’s oceans as a giant bathtub that connect all people.

The duck has inspired numerous knock-offs, especially in China where the blog Kotaku notes that in June 2013, many cities got their own ducks.

Hofman presented artist renderings for the duck that appeared in L.A. and will appear in Philly, but he told PhillyMag that the organizers don’t have permission to use it again.

Samborski says Hofman failed to produce drawings that showed how to build the duck, and that the one he had built is larger than the one depicted in Hoffman’s drawings. Samborski brushed off intellectual property concerns.

“It’s a duck,” he said, and a popular one at that. In Los Angeles, Samborski said, hundreds of tourists flew from Asia to take pictures of themselves with it.

“The ducks are huge in Asia,” he said.

You might ask what a giant rubber duck has to do with tall ships, graceful ambassadors of sailing days past which come from all over the world.The answer is pretty simple. It brings people to the festival.

Samborski said when he unveiled the duck in L.A. many of the captains were angry that it drew attention away from their vessels. Over the weekend, they came around because of all the interest the duck generated.

You might see the smaller duck around town, drumming up interest in the big one. There’s a story behind it. Rocky, the little duck, arrived early and is looking for his momma.

Samborski says Rocky had something of a stalker in L.A., a creepy guy who always managed to show up at its appearances.

His description of the stalker trails off as if to underscore the weirdness.

“He did it all on public transportation, which, if you know anything about public transit in that city….” Samborski says.

TallShips Philadelphia Camden will take place June 25 to 28 on the Delaware waterfront and will feature at least 13 ships manned by more than 600 sailors. Samborski is hoping to add more vessels. They’ll all take part in a mock battle on the last day of the festival.

Tickets are required, some for as little as $7, but pricier ones allow spectators to sail on the vessels or take tours of them.

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