In the last decade, there have been few reality TV shows as popular as A&E’s Duck Dynasty. Over the course of 11 seasons, the show built a dedicated fan base, all interested in the Robertson family’s exploits. However, in July 2018, Willie Robertson made a major announcement on Twitter.
Back in 1973, family patriarch Phil Robertson started his own duck calling company, which he named Duck Commander. Selling a variety of hunting gear, the Louisiana native’s business proved a massive, money-spinning success. However, the Robertson family’s life changed forever in 2012.
That year, Duck Commander boasted revenues of $40 million, with Phil’s son Willie now in charge of the family business. The good news didn’t stop there, though, as a reality TV show centered around the Robertsons made its debut on the A&E network in March 2012. Its name? Duck Dynasty.
The show captured the everyday lives of Phil and his family, as they went about their business in the Louisiana bayous. However, few could’ve predicted just how popular the program would become over the next five years. Indeed, more than nine and half million viewers tuned in to season three’s swansong in April 2013, trumping the number who watched the finale of American Idol.
Off the back of that, Duck Dynasty’s season four premiere racked up close to 12 million viewers. It eventually became the most watched non-fiction show in the history of cable. Despite all that success, though, the series gradually fell down the pecking order, with ratings taking a hit.
In stark contrast to the season four premiere, Duck Dynasty’s season ten opener pulled in just 1.3 million viewers. While the show didn’t lose the core of its fanbase during that period, a decision was made in November 2016. After speaking with the family, A&E opted to cancel it at the conclusion of season 11.
Following five years on the air, Duck Dynasty came to an end in March 2017, bowing out after 130 episodes. Despite the show’s cancellation, though, the Robertsons still have plenty of fans across the U.S. and many were intrigued to know what the family would do next. On that note, Willie made an exciting announcement on Twitter in July 2018.
“Well guys, we have big news to share,” Willie wrote. “Duck Commander The Tour is now open! Come check out our family’s journey of faith, family and ducks.” The news was out: the Robertsons had decided to open up an interactive museum in Louisiana, which included a variety of the show’s props.
“It’s been exciting even for the family to walk through because it takes our story from the beginning to today,” Willie told USA Today in July 2018. “While we’re talking now I’m looking at things and remembering when we did them or what show a prop came from. When you’re in the heat of it you miss a lot of things.”
While the museum celebrates the family’s journey throughout the years, a woman named Maureen Daly put together the tour. Alongside her sons, she ensured that the project covered all the major beats of the Robertsons’ story. However, Daly also noted her surprise at some aspects.
“We really wanted fans to be able to experience the total journey of the family from their beginnings to their stardom, which includes their [Christian] faith journey,” Daly told USA Today. “People become very engaged in theas they move through the tour.”
“It’s an amazing story of how a single duck call led to this enterprise and how it went viral,” Daly continued. “As I learned more about them I was surprised about how broad their brand has become. Sometimes even their fans are surprised by the depth of their story.”
While the museum will no doubt fill the void left by Duck Dynasty’s cancellation, it also serves as an important attraction for Louisiana as a whole. Indeed, the state’s chief tourism officer Billy Nungesser outlined his plans ahead of taking the tour himself. He admitted that Louisiana would be heavily publicizing the museum.
“I’m excited to see [the museum] because we were all just talking about the need for a permanent attraction in northern Louisiana,” Nungesser told USA Today. “I’m looking forward to promoting it here within the state and in our marketing campaigns outside the state.”
As far as the fans were concerned, though, Duck Commander The Tour didn’t require much promotion, with people flocking to the museum to catch a glimpse of their heroes’ story. Doug Rorech, the event’s director, was blown away by some of those individuals, noting the bond they shared with the Robertson family.
“Fans drop off gifts for them and ask if we can get them to the family,” Rorech told USA Today. “It’s really incredible.” Meanwhile, the tour itself contains 15 different exhibit rooms, each offering a glimpse into the Robertsons’ rise to stardom. One feature in particular even allows visitors to perform duck calls themselves.
With the attraction open, Willie dropped in to take the tour one day, surprising some lucky fans that were there. “I love what you’ve done and what you stand for,” one Texan resident told him amidst all the selfies. On that note, the Duck Dynasty alumni reiterated what he wanted to get out of the show.
“People come here as families,” said Willie about the museum. “That’s one of the things we emphasized from the start. We always wanted a show the whole family could watch.” As for the Robertsons’ religious beliefs, Daly made sure that they were well represented throughout the tour.
Indeed, the family’s Christian standing features in several of the 15 exhibit rooms. And Daly spoke about the role this played in attracting her to the museum. “This is what drew me to the project,” she said. “Their faith and their ability to convey it.”
However, while Duck Commander The Tour offers people the chance to dive back into the Robertsons’ world, Willie noted that he still gets asked one particular question. “[A Duck Dynasty reunion is] not in the works now, but you never know,” he teased. “I wouldn’t rule it out.”