|The Duck March at the Peabody Hotel|
Photo by Mandy
The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee is home to a bizarre ritual that has been occurring there since 1932. The ritual takes place every morning at 11 a.m. and every afternoon at 5 p.m. This ritual involves five residents of the hotel that live in a penthouse on the roof known as the "Royal Duck Palace." These residents stroll out to the hotel's travertine marble fountain in the lobby on a red carpet amidst spectators and then stroll back to their palace, also along the red carpet, after having spent the day frolicking in the fountain. The red carpet V.I.D.'s are trained North American Mallards. Yes, ducks.
The practice of marching ducks out to the fountain of the Peabody Hotel began as something of a joke. The hotel's general manager and his friend thought it would be funny to put three ducks in the fountain. It turned out that the entertainment was a success. People enjoyed the novelty so much that the three were replaced by five North American Mallards and it has been five North American Mallards ever since.
Initially, there were just ducks in the fountain. Well, the word "just" does not really describe it, but that was the extent of it, nonetheless. That was, until the hotel got its first Duckmaster. Edward Pembroke was initially a bellman for the hotel. He was a former animal trainer and used this skill to get a more prestigious job as Duckmaster at the Peabody Hotel. He is the one who trained the animals to walk the red carpet until he retired. Several celebrities have been named "honorary Duckmasters." However, let's give credit where credit is due. None of these celebrities has trained multitudes of wild animals to behave in a crowded hotel.
The Peabody Hotel Ducks are not just five ducks that are replaced over the years. They only work for three months, after being raised on a farm. After the three months is up, they go back to the farm, where their novel skill as red carpet strutters becomes useless.