“Duck duck goose?” “Duck duck grey duck?” Whatever side of that debate you support, turns out, you’re wrong. It’s really “duck duck Jeep.”
Jeep drivers are no strangers to car culture phenomena. For decades, the Jeep Wave has been a well-established tradition; when one Jeep encounters another on the road (or better yet, off of it), both drivers should wave at each other. It’s something Jeepers take seriously. Failing to wave or worse, to return a wave given you, is a faux-pas difficult to forgive, especially amongst the more old-school Jeep crowd. The wave has become so popular, Jeep decided to name their loyalty program, The Jeep Wave Program. But the new Jeep Ducking craze shows all the signs of becoming just as ubiquitous a tradition as the famous Wave.
Do a Google search for “duck duck Jeep,” and you’ll get more than 20 million results. The phrase and the movement behind it is a growing cultural phenomenon. But what exactly is it, and how did it begin? It all started, as such things often do, from a random event. A single impulsive act that, in the best traditions of the modern internet, exploded worldwide seemingly overnight.
Jeep Ducking has become so popular, it grabbed the attention of Car Talk in no time at all. Funny enough, the Managing Editor of Car Talk was ducked while on a hike within a few months of the start of the phenomenon. So of course, we HAD to reach out to the creator of Jeep Ducking to find out what this is all about, straight from the source.
Allison Parliament didn’t set out to become an internationally known Jeep celebrity. But that’s exactly what happened after a terrible road trip from the southern United States to her native Canada during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. A dual citizen of both Canada and the United States, Allison decided to travel from her home in Clanton, Alabama to visit family and friends in Ontario.
She never expected the welcome she got when she stopped for gas in a small Canadian town. As she was getting ready to fuel her pride and joy, a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara she’d just bought, she suddenly found herself in the middle of an angry encounter.
“A guy approached, told me I was a dirty American spreading Covid and just wanted to hurt people,” Allison said. The man even shoved her into her Jeep. “It scared the crap out of me.”
Allison quickly decided to get gas elsewhere and left town as fast as she could. She called a friend. “Is this what it’s gonna be like all the way home?” Arriving at her destination, she found herself so upset, she didn’t even want to leave the house. But her friend eventually convinced her to keep going, heading farther north to her family’s home. For a parting gift to her supportive friend, she popped into a local shop and bought a bag of rubber ducks to hide around his house as a joke before she left.
That seemingly random sequence of events led directly to a worldwide cultural phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. As Allison left the store, she noticed a Jeep in the parking lot. On a lark, she wrote “nice jeep” on one of the ducks, and put it on the stranger’s vehicle. The owner noticed.
“(He) came out and laughed. Said, ‘You need to put this on social media.’” So she did. “We figured it would go around town, make a few people happy, and then die out,” Allison said. Not even close. Almost overnight, her spur-of-the-moment gag skyrocketed. Within just a couple of weeks, Allison had 10,000 followers on Facebook.
Suddenly, Jeep ducking was everywhere. Little rubber ducks started popping up on Wranglers, Liberties, and Cherokees in Canada, the US, and Mexico. Then Allison saw a photo of a Jeep duck in Germany. Another in Japan. In under a year, the Duck Duck Jeep game had spread to 30 countries.
Now, the group is closing in on 62,000 people, and it’s adding more by the minute. More than 800 joined in a week. Jeep itself even took notice. The release announcement for the company’s new Wrangler Rubicon included a hashtag highlighting Jeep Ducking. The company has even given Allison’s Jeep Ducking group official recognition as the official Ducking group for Jeep.
Before Allison knew it, the Jeep ducks were everywhere. Photos poured into her Instagram and Facebook pages. Other people’s Jeeps. Her Jeep. Ducks on hoods. Ducks on door handles…
Like a cheerful, alternate universe version of Hitchcock’s The Birds, little rubber ducks invaded the world. They started mutating. From regular yellow ducks to a rainbow of rubber duck colors.
Ducking Jeeps was a game with seemingly boundless variety. It even started spreading beyond Jeeps. Subarus got ducked. Classic cars got ducked. “We don’t cap it off at just Jeep; Everybody needs kindness," said Allison.
It wasn’t long before Allison started getting recognized. Total strangers knew her on sight. They’d stop her in the street for a chance to meet her. Her favorite encounter came when she was having a terrible day. “Worst day I’d had in a long time,” she said. “I was actually crying in my Jeep.” Then a woman approached, with a rubber duck.
“It was actually her ducking me! This lady comes over and is about to put the duck on my Jeep, and she looked at me and she knew who I was! And she said, ‘Oh my God, you’re her!’”
Requests rolled in - eventually 1,000 a week - asking for signed rubber ducks. She can’t possibly respond to them all, though not for lack of trying. She’s personally given away 17,000 Jeep ducks. “I have 600 in my Jeep right now. I just restocked,” she laughed.
Then the celebrity appearance gigs started. Jeep gatherings from around the continent started inviting Allison as their special guest, much to her surprise. “I do not feel like a celeb at all!” she exclaimed. “I’m your average boring person. I’m a dog mom and a cat mom and like to play with my Jeep.”
Others didn’t see it that way. Invitations started pouring in. She put 6,000 miles on her Jeep in just a month, driving to events she’d been invited to where she’d sign and give away duck after duck. The Wabash Valley Jeep Junkies brought her to their annual rally to raise money for the fight against breast cancer, especially meaningful to Allison because of her family’s history with the disease.
The trend’s spread well beyond Jeeps. Drivers of other marques, looking to get in on the fun, have started ducking each other. Allison’s seen examples of Bronco ducking, Mustang ducking, and some particularly inventive Toyota-loving wags are selling green rubber ducks with pointy ears for - what else - Ducking Yotas.
In fact the ducking concept got so big, Allison started thinking about how she could use it to make the world better. So she created a non-profit dedicated to “Ducky Grants.” Through it, teachers can apply for funds, usually around $100, to buy supplies for their classrooms that they’d otherwise have to pay for out of their own pockets. “So many teachers give so much more than they have,” said Allison, “we decided, why don’t we turn what good we have into something better.”
Allison sells Duck Duck Jeep t-shirts and decals, with all proceeds going into the grant program. Last fall saw a big boost to those funds, as she led the first-of-its-kind Jeep Invasion rally in Wetumpka, Alabama. Attracting nearly 400 Jeepers to the small town, the Invasion was such a success, they’re doing it again this year. “It was so successful we sold the food vendor out on the first day,” said Allison. “This year we’ll have a bigger vendor list.” Beyond food, rising Blues star Will Wesley will return for concerts, joined in the lineup by Scott Austin, formerly of Saving Abel. Of course, driving events aplenty await Jeepers for the second annual Invasion.
Among those driving events is an obstacle course where the driver is blindfolded and follows instructions from a passenger. There’s also a night trail run illuminated by glowsticks, and even a section for the younger crowd featuring Power Wheels Jeeps.
The event has a dual purpose: raising money for Allison’s non-profit, and helping bring life back to a downtown devastated by a damaging tornado three years ago. “We’re supporting all of the downtown market shops,” she said. Last year’s support was so well-attended, that not only did Allison want to hold the event in Wetumpka again, but Wetumpka specifically invited her to return.
If you’d like to join the jeepers at the Invasion, tickets are $50 for regular admission and $70 for VIP, which gets you special parking, your own rubber ducks (of course) and the opportunity to meet Allsion and the bands. Perhaps of greatest interest, at least to those who show up in a Jeep, is the VIP-only guided ride through Stoney Lonesome Off-Highway Vehicle park.
Tickets are available on the official Ducking Jeep’s Facebook page. It’s a private group, so you’ll need to join before you can buy.
Allison’s been a Jeeper her whole life. Her great uncle taught her to drive a manual transmission in old World War II and Korean War Jeeps he’d restored. “He used to take us out in the back bush on his property and let us loose in the Jeeps.” The old military vehicles were a constant thread in the many treasured memories of Allison’s time spent with her great uncle. She only wishes he’d lived long enough for the Jeep Duck phenomenon. “If he saw what we have done with this now he would have been ecstatic!”
Jeep Ducking’s changed Allison’s life. She’s got new friends from around the world, a non-profit that’s easing burdens on teachers, and it’s even impacted her dog. The Duck Duck Jeep Facebook group picked the name for her new pup: “Ducky Ollie.”
But it hasn’t been completely positive. As with just about any endeavor involving the internet, trolls have descended on Allison’s Ducking Jeeps group. A subset of Jeep enthusiasts, having decided Jeep ducks aren’t a proper image for the offroading set, have taken to harassing Allison online. “I had a guy tell me if I didn’t sell my jeep I’d be hurt,” said Allison.
Others have sought to capitalize on Allison’s initiative. A fake Jeep Ducking group sprang up, selling merchandise and vendor access. “We make nothing from Ducking Jeeps,” said Allison. “We are 100% nonprofit, but this group was profiting off vendors, selling Jeep-logoed items, and doing duck exchanges.”
Jeep intervened and forced the false Jeep Ducking group to stop infringing on its trademarks, but that didn’t end the troubles for Allison. She says the group’s leader began spreading unsavory rumors about her on the internet.
The unexpected animosity gave Allison pause; should she shut the group down and walk away? But after consideration, Allison decided she wouldn’t. The ability to make a positive impact on others was too important.
“The duck that finds that person crying in a parking lot that’s had the worst day ever,” said Allison, “that’s the reason we do what we do.”
If you’d like to get in on the fun, Allison says you’re more than welcome to join her group. Check out the Official Ducking Jeeps Facebook page where to join, you need only answer the question, “How did you get ducked?”