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Penguin takes tour of Massena

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MASSENA - Patti Laraby and her daughter, Maddie, took a penguin on a tour of Massena on Friday, and he’ll be sticking around long enough to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with the family.

Puffington the Penguin is actually a cool mist humidifier and creation of Crane USA, Chicago.

“What they are best known for are their humidifiers. They make them in the shapes of little animals in various colors so that when they are placed in children’s rooms it looks nicer than just a regular plain water tank like most models,” Ms. Laraby said as she and Maddie, 2, made their journey around Massena on Friday.

“Each year they come out with a different animal and they get the word out in very creative ways,” she said.

Other animals that are part of the humidifier line include Freddy the Frog, Daphnie the Duck, Timmy the Tiger, Elliot the Elephant and Curtis the Cow.

“This year they debuted Puffington the Penguin and, to advertise his arrival, they decided to send him on vacation all over the U.S.,” she said.

Ms. Laraby said she learned about Puffington through a friend who follows Crane USA on Facebook.

“They always had a contest to get the word out. They came out with an owl, and had a Facebook contest to name the owl,” she said.

When Puffington made his debut, the company decided to send him on vacation around the United States. People were invited to share their thoughts on why Puffington should visit their community, and Ms. Laraby was among them.

“They said let’s send him on vacation. He started in Chicago, where they’re at. He’s been to Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico,” she said.

Add Massena, New York to the list of vacation spots now; his first stop on the east coast, according to Ms. Laraby.

“I wrote in on behalf of myself and my 2-year-old daughter, explaining all the great things that Massena had to offer. I didn’t write some big extravagant letter. I said maybe it’s not a big bright lights kind of place, but there are a lot of cool things. They said we would love to send Puffington to you. The fact that we get to be part of it is pretty cool,” she said.

“Massena is his first stop on the east coast. The fact that they could have picked so many bigger places to visit in New York state and they picked us makes it special,” she added.

Puffington arrives at each location in a United Parcel Service box, shipped from his previous vacation spot. He comes with a travel case and his own passport with notes detailing his travels.

“They say save (the box). It looks like it’s been through World War III already,” Ms. Laraby said.

Caretakers at each location take pictures of Puffington at various locations around their community. Ms. Laraby had visited the fire station and the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce Friday morning, and she planned to take him out to Barnhart Island so he could have his photo taken around sites like Eisenhower Lock, as well as across the border in Canada.

Puffington’s visits also included time with Massena Mayor James F. Hidy and the town clerk’s office, where he received an honorary fishing license from Town Clerk Georgette Davis and Pam Catanzarite.

“The caretakers are encouraged to take photos with Puffington sightseeing and having fun in their hometown. Then the photos get published on Crane USA’s Facebook page,” she said.

Among the pictures taken at previous visits was Puffington at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota and Puffington at a balloon festival in New Mexico.

“They want pictures with something with the town on it. Most of the people I’ve talked to have been very cool about it. I talked to Aaron Hardy at the fire hall. He let me take a picture with a big fire truck.

Puffington will stay with the Laraby family for a week, long enough for a Thanksgiving dinner. Then, when he’s ready to move, they contact a Crane USA representative and receive a sticker to affix to the box with the name and address of the next person he’ll visit.

“I just got him yesterday. I was supposed to get him in September. He got stuck in Colorado. I had planned to do all of these falls things. I was going to bring him golfing at the country club, but I had to alter my plan,” she said.

Ms. Laraby said she’s enjoyed being a part of the vacation effort for Puffington.

“It’s a very creative and clever thing. I love the simplicity of it,” she said.

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