Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Favorites: The Duck Master

As I mentioned last week, I am a big fan of birds. Before we left for our Southern excursion, I had heard about a special pack of ducks at the Peabody Hotel that swim in the hotel lobby’s fountain and are marched down a red carpet twice a day. Needless to say, this was something I had to check out. Numerous times. (Sorry, Dan!)

Each morning, at 11am, the Peabody Ducks leave their Royal Peabody Duck Palace, and arrive at a location in the lobby, where a red carpet has been laid out for them to walk down. The ducks are accompanied by their Duck Master who leads them down the carpet to John Philip Sousa's King Cotton March. The ducks climb up a carpeted staircase and dive into the fountain where they hang out until 5pm when they march back down the carpet and up the elevator to their Duck Palace. The twice-daily March of The Peabody Ducks has continued in unbroken sequence at 11am and 5pm since the tradition began in Memphis almost 70 years ago.

Just swimmin'
During our trip, we happened to visit two of the Peabody Hotel’s locations, Memphis and Little Rock. We arrived at the Peabody Memphis a little too late to get a prime viewing spot for the duck march and were unable to see a thing. Damn you lady and your wine glass and big hair! When we drove over to Little Rock, we decided to give the ducks another chance. The Peabody Little Rock had a much bigger viewing area than the Peabody Memphis and I was able to score one of the two seats that lined the red carpet. Score one for me. The ducks literally walked right past my feet on the way to the elevator. Hell, we even became friends with the Duck Master and Duck Master in training – shout out to Titus!

Why are there ducks swimming in a gorgeous hotel lobby you ask? We’re talking about the South here, so OF COURSE it involves booze. Back in the 1930s, Frank Schutt, general manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much whiskey and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain. The ducks were so well received and the tradition continues today!

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