A large duck-shaped building which sits in Flanders, New York, on the East End of Long Island, the Big Duck is a tourist trap with a 70-plus-year history.

The year was 1931, the Depression was in full swing, and William Levitt had yet to create the suburb. Martin Maurer, a duck farmer from Riverhead, New York, and his wife Jeule, decided to construct a large duck-shaped duck shop. The shop would be instantly recognized by passing motorists on West Main Street, who Maurer figured would be compelled to stop in and buy some of the Maurer ranch's own Peking ducks. The inspiration came from a California coffee pot-shaped coffee shop that the Maurers once visited.

Construction was under the auspices of carpenter George Reeve, stage show set designers William and Samuel Collins, and builders Smith and Yeager Builders. The duck was made of cement around a wire mesh, colored white except for the orange beak, and with two Ford Model T taillights to light up as eyes. The finished product measured 30 feet (9.1 meters) from beak to tail, 15 feet (4.5 m) between the two folded wings, and 20 feet (6.1 m) from base to the top of its head. Following the completion of the project, Maurer trademarked the name "The Big Duck Ranch" for his ranch and shop.

In 1936, after the Maurers experienced great success at their Riverhead location, they decided to relocate to nearby Flanders. The Big Duck was summarily moved to a location on Route 24 about 5 miles south of the Long Island Expressway exit 71.

The Big Duck stood proudly and quietly in Flanders until 1987, when the land where it stood was slated for development. Enraged, many Suffolk County residents and the organization Friends for Long Island's Heritage protested. The owners caved in and donated the Big Duck to the county. In December 1987, the Big Duck was moved slightly east on Route 24 to the entrance of Sears Bellows County Park, the place where it stands to this day. Although you can't buy ducks or duck eggs there any more, you can buy various memorabilia (or "duck-a-bilia") about the duck and about Long Island itself. The shop is open seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Eastern Daylight Time) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Cash and major credit cards are accepted.

Ducks have been a big part of Long Island's history, and the Big Duck is still an unusual and distinctive attraction with well-established roots. Every year in June, the Big Duck plays host to the Big Duck Quack Off, where people compete to see who has the most realistic quack. On the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving, the Duck is draped in Christmas lights for the holiday season.


More on the web: http://www.co.suffolk.ny.us/webtemp1.cfm?dept=10&id=836, http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/NYFLAduck.html, http://fortuna.home.pipeline.com/cafe-compendium/duck.htm

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