Tourists still flocking to ‘Duck Dynasty’ hometown

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by Marcelino Benito / KHOU 11 News

wwltv.com

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 11:48 AM

WEST MONROE, Louisiana -- It is an empire built along the river. A place where being called a redneck is a compliment.

"Less dirty housewives," said Bucky Newell. "More clean rednecks."

West Monroe, Louisiana is a tiny town right off of I-20 built on faith, family and ducks. It's home to reality TV's most popular family. The Robertson's duck calling business 'Duck Commander' is now a multimillion dollar business including A&E's hit reality series Duck Dynasty.

It tells the story of patriarch Phil Robertson, his bearded sons, their families and their "ordinary" lives in West Monroe.

"Reason it work is because it's clean, it's wholesome, it ain't just a bunch of garbage," said Newell.

Newell co-owns Duck Diner a new restaurant in town. He's known the Robertson's for years.

"That's what rednecks do, they break wind, they burp, they spill stuff on themselves, that's the appeal," he said.

That average Joe appeal has turned the Duck Commander Warehouse into a tourist mecca. Thousands of people flock here from all over the world. They want to experience the way the Robertsons live their lives every week. They watch it on TV, but they want to experience it up close.

“You can’t come thru this part of the country without seeing the guys from Duck Dynasty," said Jim Leatherman, a tourist visiting from Maryland. "It absolutely is a fever, it's a culture thing."

It's a fever, the visitors bureau doesn't want to kick. Visitors keep driving in from Mexico, Canada and every state. They're all looking for the same thing.

"Follow the beards is what we say," said Sheila Snow, with West Monroe's Visitor Bureau.

The town started the Duck Commander Hometown tour. They're places in town where the Robertsons have been before, like Haskell's where tourists pop in for a donut, or Duck Diner for a chicken fried steak with a side of Duck Dynasty.

"Makes me very proud to live here," said Nicole Currington.

“Anything that brings people in to the area how could it not be good for you,” said Newell.

But last December, one interview almost brought the Duck Dynasty down. Phil Robertson told GQ Magazine that gays were sinners. Critics thought it would doom Duck Dynasty. Robertson was suspended from the show. But weeks later re-instated after mounting pressure from the public.

The critics were wrong. The show survived. Ask the locals and they'll tell you why.

"Freedom of speech, you have a right to say what you want to say," said John C. Brown, captain of the Duck Commander River Cruise.

Folks here don't care Robertson said gays were doomed to hell. They backed the family that brought the spotlight to their tiny town. The Robertsons are honest and perhaps most importantly say residents, they love God.

"They bring back the old values which is what this country needed, faith, Jesus,” said Currington.

"Right is right and wrong is wrong," said Allen Tregry. "Sometimes there's no gray area if you believe in the Bible."

Fans of the show are now praying the tide doesn't turn. Ratings were down this season. But those prayers are turning to profits. Business is still booming.

"It’s not so much the warehouse they're coming to see, they’re coming to see something wholesome.”

The duck souvenirs are still flying off the shelves and duck calls are louder than ever. Tourists say they're craving something authentic.

"It's just real, it reminds me of my grandpa," said Anna Hightower, a tourist from Shreveport.

And tourists have found what they're looking for in West Monroe, Louisiana.

"Change the channel if you don't like it," said Tregry.

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