Birth of a Loon
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In February of 2011 we were exploring creative ways to generate excitement and support for the AIC programming. Our goal was to create an event that would highlight the fantastic resource the AIC represents in the region and the high-quality and diverse informal science education offered here.
The idea of a rubber duck race was proposed, the Rich Lake outlet being a natural race course with the two bridges forming a perfect start and finish line. All we needed now was racers.
Rubber ducks were intuitive, but common; we needed something that proudly said “ESF” and “Adirondacks.”
In keeping with Rich Lake’s history as a log-staging lake throughout the first half of 20th century Adirondack logging, racing mini-logs with the ESF mark seemed like a good fit, but, well, just not quite “it.”
We continued to brainstorm.
As we circled back to the point of origin, rubber ducks, we had our Eureka moment - rubber loons! What could be more perfect? Loons are a powerful and beloved symbol of the Adirondacks, and also a subject of ongoing ESF study and research. Loons are a species provoking wonder and fascination, never failing to catch the imagination and interest of adults and children, researchers and recreationists, and viewers of all sorts - whether with a paddle, pencil, or a camera.
We set off on the internet to find our loons. We were amazed that no matter how creative our search, rubber loons did not seem to exist. Could that be possible? Could so popular an animal, one whose image was emblazoned at one time or other on just about every tchotchke and Adirondack knick-knack imaginable, not have been immortalized yet as a common bathroom toy?
As good students of science, we continued our research and developed new lines of inquiry, searching for Gavia rubbercus anywhere in the nooks and crannies of the internet. All to no avail. So we shifted gears, seeking a company who made custom rubber ducks - bingo! That search almost immediately introduced us to CelebriDucks, a company whose joyfully creative approach and serious commitment to rubber ducks was immediately evident.
That serious commitment to creating high-quality playful products carries over to owner Craig Wolfe’s commitment to bringing rubber duck production and jobs back to the USA (where they were invented) after a generation overseas. We are very excited to support Craig’s vision, working with CelebriDucks to create and produce our loon, the first and only completely made it the USA, from design to molding, production to painting. Our loons are the first custom job and only the second product run of once again Made in the USA rubber birds. You can learn more about the migration of production back to the USA here and follow Craig’s progress on CelebriDucks’ entraining and informative blog.
The opportunity to design the loon was awarded to sculptor Christopher Martin, an artist living in Ohio, coincidentally where the rubber duck was invented. All you have to know to get a sense of Chris is that his website and email are “I Play with Clay.” Pretty functional and pretty fun, just like the loon he designed for us. You can get an even better sense of him and his work at www.iplaywithclay.com
The finished product is not only the first rubber loon in the world, but one working to support ESF’s educational outreach in the Adirondacks, a role we look forward to them playing (literally and figuratively) for many years to come.