Elvis, Otis, Aretha, Jerry Lee and.. ducks? Sure thing: one of the most popular things to see off the beaten Memphis path are the ducks swimming in the lobby fountain of The Peabody, the grand hotel of the South on Union Avenue.
Every morning at 11:00am five North American mallards – four hens and one drake – waddle from their USD 200,000 Duck Palace on the hotel roof to the elevator and ride all the way down to the ground floor. Led by a professionally trained Duckmaster, they follow a red carpet from the elevator to their fountain habitat where they float peacefully and enjoy the opulent backdrop and soft piano music. At exactly 17:00pm, it’s time to clock out and repeat the ritual.
This nearly 90-year old tradition is the result of a prank by the former hotel manager, who thought it funny to place live duck decoys in the water. The spectacle came later, when Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, stepped up and taught them the famous Peabody Duck March. And a spectacle it is: without fail, the Peabody’s lobby is packed with waterfowl fans every day around 11:00 and 17:00, so make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before quack-off if you want front-row seats.
Now you’re not alone in thinking that all this ducking around could be animal-friendlier. It’s good to know however that The Peabody makes sure that its resident ducks are treated like royalty. Raised by a local farmer, each team of ducks lives at the hotel for only three months. Immediately after, the stars retire from the lobby limelight and return to the farm where they are free to live as wild ducks.
Also, it’s almost needless to say that duck is strictly off the menu at the in-house restaurant Chez Philippe, and the very comfortable Duck Palace with plenty of grass, water and its own mini fountain in the middle offers the same high-end luxury that human Peabody guests enjoy. You’re welcome to go check it out: on most days, the Peabody rooftop and the Duck Palace are open to the public.
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