Call it a case of duck envy.
A giant yellow duck — which, hands down, was the show stopper when it sailed in Wednesday for San Pedro's Tall Ships Festival — turned out to be just a little too popular.
On Thursday, the six-story, 11-ton floating bath toy was towed north to the World Cruise Center — closer to where the visiting ships and vendors were set up for the five-day festival — to ensure that the duck wouldn't steal all the festival business.
Marifrances Trivelli, director of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum next door to the Downtown Harbor plaza on Harbor Boulevard between Fifth and Sixth streets — where the duck was slated to remain throughout the festival — said the floating sculpture was an overwhelming visitor draw in its first 24 hours.
Trivelli said she was “in shock” when she saw the duck abruptly being towed away Thursday.
So was Liz Schindler Johnson, who heads up fundraisers for downtown's Warner Grand Theatre.
“I was very disappointed,” she said. “I'd brought a friend down for lunch and thought we'd be viewing it close up.”
Instead, they had to peer at it from a distance at the Fish Market in Ports O' Call.
The duck, it seemed, was proving to be too much competition for the rest of the Tall Ships Festival, prompting the decision by midday Thursday to tow the mega-attraction closer to the main festival grounds near the World Cruise Center.
“The duck was wildly successful,” said Craig Samborski, festival producer.
Officially, Samborski said organizers were simply anticipating bigger crowds this weekend and wanted to make sure there would be enough room to handle the visitors who came specifically to see the duck.
But there's no denying that the duck was stealing at least a good portion of the early festival audiences.
“People usually follow the ships (at tall ships festivals),” Samborski said. “Yesterday, they just followed the duck.”
Festival vendors hailed the new location as “perfect,” saying it made sense to move the duck closer to the main events ongoing at the Tall Ships Festival. Visiting tall ships are berthed along the dock near the World Cruise Center, offering ship tours and day sails. There also are several stages where live music is being presented along with other activities.
In its original spot at the newly opened Downtown Harbor plaza, the large duck visibly and cheerfully bobbed over busy Harbor Boulevard and was closer to the community's historic downtown shopping district.
As early as 7 a.m. Thursday, following widespread publicity the day before of the duck's arrival, a crowd of people had already gathered to admire the attraction located inside the festival fence at the southernmost tip of the event grounds.
Now, visitors have to venture farther into the venue to the north end — closer to the Vincent Thomas Bridge behind the Battleship Iowa and SS Lane Victory — to see the vinyl sculpture.
Although the festival vendors were happy with the move, others were disappointed, saying the close-up view of the duck looming over Harbor Boulevard near the town's downtown shopping district was a delightful perk to their commute.
It was also a loss for the downtown shopping district.
“When the duck arrived in the downtown water cut, it was an instant celebrity attraction,” said Stephen Robbins, executive director of the downtown business improvement district.
In its first spot, Schindler Johnson said, the duck could have given a boost to downtown businesses. She suggested that the festival move the duck around and share the attraction over the next few days. The $32 million Downtown Harbor plaza that opened in June, she said, is proving to be a big asset to efforts to link the waterfront to downtown, though she said an ice cream or other snack vendor is needed to serve people who already are discovering the space for early evening walks.
“It would have been nicer to have the duck closer,” she said. “I'm sure there's a reason for it, but I hope he'll commute.”
For those who come to the Downtown Harbor plaza, they'll only see a much-shrunken version of the “Rubber Duck.”
The 10-foot-tall “baby” duck that was used on the city's promotional tour for the Tall Ships Festival has been slid into the plaza in the big duck's place. It won't be the same, said fans of the real, big duck.
“It's no longer visible from the street,” Trivelli said of the removed 61-foot-tall sculpture. “We're getting phone calls from people complaining.”
But Trivelli said it's all working out.
A temporary fence protecting the big duck that also stretched around the museum has come down, she said, and visitors can now visit the baby duck next door for free.
When the festival ends Sunday, the big duck reportedly will remain in the port for two more weeks and is expected to make appearances along Wilmington's neighboring waterfront.