“Whereas, the daily march of the world-famous Peabody Ducks is a time honored tradition, begun in 1933 and attended by countless visitors, and
Whereas, the care and protection of The Peabody Ducks must be attended to on a daily basis and can only fall to persons of high standards
and great distinction, and
Whereas, you are such a person, be it resolved that on November 30, 2012
has been chosen Honorary Duckmaster.
Signed: Anthony Petrina, Duckmaster
The Peabody, Memphis"
Because I shy away from public appearances ,little did I know what was in store for me when I’d e-mailed a simple request to tour the South’s Grand Hotel, where heads-of-states and the who’s who of the world have stayed.
I arrived bleary-eyed with the worst hair day ever when my overnight flight touched down at Memphis that morning as I headed straight to the elegant Peabody. Instead of meeting resident Duckmaster Anthony Petrina for a tour of the hotel, however, I was escorted to a table reserved for the “Honorary Duckmaster” next to the hotel’s famous travertine marble fountain .
After Petrina presented my award, the large audience applauded from the balconies above, together with the crowd that had eagerly gathered in the hotel’s lobby to witness the legendary march.
Petrina then rolled out the red carpet that led from the fountain to the elevator as he handed me the official cane topped with a brass duck that was required to perform my ceremonial duties.
We ascended in the elevator to the “Royal Duck Palace”’ on the hotel’s rooftop to escort the ducks down in the elevator. At exactly 11 a.m. Petrina opened the elevator doors and I led the ducks’ march to the fountain through crowds of admiring spectators to the tune of John Philip Sousa’s Cotton March as flash cameras lit up the lobby.
All this may lead you to wonder, “How did this internationally famous legend of the ducks begin?”
In 1933, Frank Schutt, General Manager of the Peabody returned with a friend from a weekend hunting trip. The men had a little too much whiskey to drink and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (It was legal then to have duck decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain.
The guests’ reaction was enthusiastic. After more than 75 years, the lobby is still graced with the ducks. Today, they are raised by a local farmer and stay on the roof of the Peabody for about three months, then are returned to the farm. Otherwise, they might get too comfortable and begin to wander about the lobby.
After the morning’s big event, Petrina did guide my fascinating 45-minute tour of the hotel, graciously giving me an autographed book of the hotel’s illustrious history.
Before boarding the Yorktown ship for an 11-day Mississippi River cruise later that afternoon, I walked about downtown Memphis, cane in hand, while proudly listening to several excited kids call, “Mommy, there goes the Honorary Duckmaster!”
For More Information
• www.peabodymemphis.com; 800-PEABODY
• For a small fee, tours of the hotel are available to the public.
• Enjoy a fabulous lunch at the hotel’s Capriccio Grill steakhouse (where no duck is served). Be sure to order the South’s best whiskey-soaked bread pudding!