[Memphis, TN] — Given the choice,  I’d probably rather visit a brewmaster than a duckmaster (nothing personal, the duckmaster is a really nice guy, but he doesn’t know how to make beer, after all); still, I couldn’t resist stopping in at the Peabody Hotel while in Memphis for its renowned “March of the Ducks.”

The Peabody is an elegant and historic Memphis hotel, dating back to 1869. Its lobby is sort of a monument to brass, dark wood, and marble, with an impressive fountain as its centerpiece. And every day, between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm, that fountain is home to five North American mallard ducks; one male and four females. The tradition started in the 1930s, and each team of wild ducks serves just three months before retirement to a local farm.

When the ducks are not “on duty” in the lobby fountain, they live in what’s called the Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s rooftop. So naturally, they must be marched every day from their home on the roof to the lobby 13 floors down. And that’s where the duckmaster comes in — twice daily, Anthony Petrina, who currently holds that title, rounds up the ducks and marches them to the elevator; down in the morning, up in the evening.

Petrina performs his twice-daily duties nattily attired in his custom-made duckmaster’s outfit: a red blazer adorned with gold braiding on the shoulders. And he carries a special duck cane, for herding the ducks, of course.

Duckmaster Anthony Petrina

“Ducks are very much creatures of habit,” he told me. “As long as we do the same thing every day, they’re willing to march.”

Visitors gather in the lobby for the spectacle. John Phillip Sousa’s “King Cotton March” is played, and the duck walk begins, much to the delight of spectators.

The Peabody’s other two properties — in Orlando and Little Rock — also maintain the tradition with their own flocks of ducks, but if you want to see the original, you gotta come to Memphis.

PHOTO GALLERY:

Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks

Duckmaster Anthony Petrina

Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks

Architectural detail inside Peabody Hotel

Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks
Peabody ducks
Peabody ducksPeabody ducksDuckmaster Anthony PetrinaPeabody ducksArchitectural detail inside Peabody HotelPeabody ducksPeabody ducksPeabody ducksPeabody ducksPeabody ducksPeabody ducks

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Peabody Hotel Memphis

149 Union Avenue

Memphis, TN 38103

901-529-4000

http://www.peabodymemphis.com

Peabody Duckmasters’ Blog:

http://peabodyduckmaster.com

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

View all posts by Glen Abbott »

4 Comments
  1. Joy Kirklin

    December 5, 2012

    I heard about the Hotel With the Ducks from a friend who had been there for a wedding. They did not mention the wedding, only the ducks. I went on line, found the Peabody, the ducks checked out all I could find , which is a lot. ( Beautiful, Professional,, Awesome pictures.) My husband raises ducks, so I printed out some pictures. He was thrilled and put together a book. (He is a Cancer Survivor, but now he has bone cancer..) The ducks give him a purpose to get up and moving every morning.. My dream would be to come to your Hotel so we could see the Ducks.. If I could go anywhere I wanted to, it would be to your Beautiful Hotel.

  2. Andrea

    November 9, 2012

    Ducks in a high-end hotel – this is a first for me! Pretty interesting =)
    Andrea recently posted..GIVEAWAY: Not For Tourist Guides To 11 Top Cities

  3. inka

    November 7, 2012

    This is the funniest thing I have ever heard. Imagine: somebody asks you what you do for a living and you, all blase, answer : Oh. I’m a duck master.
    inka recently posted..Why you should stop over in Kayseri/Turkey

    • Travelin' Gringo

      November 7, 2012

      And then they go, “Oh really? My cousin is a duckmaster, too!”

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