When we arrived at the Memphis Airport on Thursday afternoon (9/18), we were picked up by someone the hotel referred us to: Gwen of Last Minute Transportation (let me tell you, if you go to Memphis - do NOT rent a car... Gwen is awesome and on time) and she was telling us about the ducks that lived in the million dollar pent house at the Peabody Hotel. She was saying that every morning at 11 am, the ducks march down to the lobby and hang out in the fountain until 5 pm. She recommended going - it's done daily.
On Friday morning (9/19), mom and I woke up at 8:30 am CT. We knew we had a few hours before we would go to the Peabody to watch the ducks - Gwen suggested to go early because people from world wide come to see these ducks - we decided to go to Denny's for breakfast and then walk around a bit. I'm glad when the time finally reached 10:20 am CT, we went. They were across the street.
At 10:20, it wasn't crowded yet. There was a sign instructing people to go to the 2nd floor because that would be the best view for the ducks. Mom and I did go to that floor, hung out for 15 minutes and then it started getting really crowded. We decided to go back to the first floor for the better view. It wasn't bad.
The Duck Master introduced the ducks and gave the history, which is the video above. According to Wikipedia (but all the Memphis sites have this history as well):
The Peabody is probably best known for a custom dating back to the 1930s. The General Manager of the time, Frank Schutt, had just returned from a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas. He and his friends found it amusing to leave three of their live English Call Duck decoys in the hotel fountain. The guests loved the idea, and since then, five Mallard ducks (one drake and four hens) have played in the fountain every day.
In 1940, a Bellman by the name of Edward Pembroke volunteered to care for the ducks. Pembroke was given the position of "Duckmaster" and served in that position until 1991. As a former circus animal trainer, he taught the ducks to march into the hotel lobby, which started the famous Peabody Duck March. Every day at 11:00 a.m., the Peabody Ducks are escorted from their penthouse home, on the Plantation Roof, to the lobby via elevator. The ducks, accompanied by the King Cotton March by John Phillip Sousa, then proceed across a red carpetto the hotel fountain, made of a solid block of Italian travertine marble. The ducks are then ceremoniously led back to their penthouse at 5:00 p.m.
Over the years, The Peabody Ducks have gained celebrity status with television appearances (along with their Duckmaster) on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Sesame Street, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. They have also appeared in People magazine.
The position of "Duckmaster" at the Peabody Memphis is the only such position in the world. Celebrities have also assumed the role of Honorary Duckmaster from time to time, including Zane Lamprey, Paula Deen, Joan Collins, Molly Ringwald, Kevin Bacon, Peter Frampton,Emeril Lagasse, Patrick Swayze, Queen Noor of Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Fry, Rudolph van Veen and Gayle King.
The custom of keeping ducks in the lobby fountain may date back even further than the 1930s. A pre-1915 postcard highlights the ducks playing in the fountain, and one source claims the custom goes back to the hotel's opening in 1869.
However, the Peabody itself claims the duck tradition to have started in 1933, as on December 3, 2008 they unveiled a new "Duck Palace" located on the rooftop, for the 75th anniversary of the duck tradition. The 24 by 12 foot enclosure features granite flooring, ceiling fans, a scale replica of the hotel, a fountain decorated with a pair of bronze ducks, and a large viewing window for guests to see them in their new home. The Duck Palace cost approximately $200,000 to construct.[
Mom and I decided to go to the Cotton Museum after that, then we would go back to see the ducks once people dispersed. We figured the hour in the Cotton Museum would be plenty of time, we were right. The ducks were so adorable and they even posed for us. :p
We went back at 4:45 to see the ducks march back to the pent house. We stayed on the roof and had a drink. Their napkins and cups had ducks on them - we kept the napkins because they were adorable. I felt like paparazzi while waiting in the lobby for them to come out of the elevator to march back to their house to retire for the evening. It is a neat tradition that I recommend seeing while there.
The ducks' pent house.