They don't look any more like millionaires in person than they do on television's A&E Network, but Hoffmann Hospice's bet on the cast of the reality show "Duck Dynasty" paid off Sunday.
All 1,400 tickets to the nonprofit agency's 19th annual Voices of Inspiration banquet at Cal State Bakersfield sold out well ahead of the event featuring keynote speakers Phil Robertson, Miss Kay Robertson and "Uncle Si" Robertson.
The Louisiana trio was a little befuddled by all the attention at a news conference ahead of the address, but said they felt right at home in Bakersfield. "There are more duck hunters in California than any state in the United States, so somewhere in the heart of California there are some good people running around chasing ducks," Phil said.
Miss Kay's assessment of the city: "It's hot, but I like it."
The TV show follows the multimillionaire family behind Duck Commander, a sporting empire that makes duck calls and decoys, as well as hunting apparel, cooking products, DVDs, CDs and novelty items.
Phil is passionate about ducks. He famously gave up a chance to play in the National Football League because it conflicted with duck-hunting season, which is still sacred to him.
A nobody named Terry Bradshaw ended up quarterbacking for the Pittsburgh Steelers in his place.
Asked if he had any regrets, Phil didn't hesitate. He's making a fortune with the show and his new book "Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as Duck Commander" (Howard Books/Simon and Schuster, 2013), so he must have made the right decision, he said.
The family doesn't look like typical entrepreneurs, with the men uniformly sporting long, scraggly beards.
"The almighty gave us these whiskers," Phil said. "Surely he didn't give us these whiskers to be scraped off. Plus they tickle Miss Kay's neck."
Uncle Si mostly sat quietly observing the hoopla around him, occasionally sipping on iced tea in a turquoise blue cup. Yes, that cup, the one his mother sent him while he was serving in Vietnam, and that he's been carrying around ever since.
The folks at Tupperware were perplexed by the sudden demand for the cup. After they found out Si was the culprit, they sent a truckload of products to him to say thanks. And yes, ladies, although you never see her on the show, Si insists he truly does have a wife of more than four decades. "A fiery redhead," he said smiling.
The family said they've enjoyed the success of the show, which is now in its third season, but noted its appeal probably is that they work hard to avoid letting it all go to their heads.
"I always say if I ever forget where we came from, then I hope we lose it all," Miss Kay said.
Phil added that he doesn't own a cellphone and has never turned on a computer, so he's somewhat insulated from media coverage, good or bad.
The Robertsons weren't shy about professing their faith at every opportunity, especially when asked about why they chose to speak for Hoffmann Hospice despite many other invitations. The family said they admired the organization's work providing end-of-life care to the terminally ill regardless of ability to pay.
"As we get a little older, there comes a time when we need a close-knit group of family and other individuals around us," Phil said.
Families love each other "all the way to the grave" with the great hope of being united again in the time of resurrection, he said.
Phil gave a demonstration of the eight duck calls around his neck, pausing in between to identify the species.
"That was a wood duck, right there," he said. "They have those in California."
The hospice is using proceeds from the banquet to raise money for a Hoffmann Hospice home.
Previous speakers at the annual banquet have included football player Tim Tebow, Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and football coach Lou Holtz.
"Hospice care deals with families at the end of life. We go in and take care of the whole family as a unit," said co-owner Beth Hoffmann. "Duck Dynasty is all about family, so we thought it was a good fit."