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Barb Lucas told her husband, Herb, to leave the camouflage baseball hat at home Saturday night.
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The Townville man wore it anyway and found himself in good company in a crowd of more than 1,200 who turned out to hear "Duck Dynasty" reality television star Willie Robertson address the Manufacturer & Business Association's 109th annual event at the Erie Insurance Arena.
The camouflage jacket worn by Ralph Pontillo, the association's president, and many others in the audience was only the first sign that this year's annual event would be different.
Robertson follows a long line of high-profile speakers to address the association's annual event. Past invitees have included former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But on a night dedicated to family businesses, Robertson seemed to find his mark as he talked about the popular cable TV show and the growth of Duck Commander, a duck call and sporting goods business that his father, Phil Robertson, founded in 1974.
Willie Robertson, who has led the business for the past decade or so, said Duck Commander already was a success before the A&E show was launched in 2012. As recently as five years ago, the business was churning out about 60,000 duck calls a year. Today, that number has climbed to 1.4 million.
Robertson, known for his long beard, American -flag bandanna and focus on his family values and Christian faith, doesn't deny for a moment the impact that the television show has had. This is reported by Goerie.com. "Now we all look smart,'' he said.
More than his own efforts as chief executive over the past decade, Robertson credits his father, who started the business. "
Really, my father did the heavy lifting, the chances he took and the investments he made,'' Robertson said.
But Robertson, 42, said he understands the struggle familiar to many people in the room Saturday.
"I can't think of a more true American success story than my family. We had nothing. We came from nothing," he said.
Robertson said he remembers watching "Dukes of Hazzard" on television as he made duck calls, taking orders over the phone and then writing them down on the back of a paper plate.