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Celebrities ranging from  President Jimmy Carter, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Justin Timberlake, Patrick Swayze, Oprah Winfrey, Emeril Lagasse, Joan Collins, George Hamilton, Paula Deen and Larry King to name just a few.  This year, Princes William and Harry watched the ducks waddle down the red carpet just days after l my last trip to Memphis so I didn't get to witness the royal spectacle. The princes, that is. I did get to see the ducks and had an informative interview with the Duckmaster Anthony Petrina.

The ducks are celebrities in their own right. They have appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Sesame Street on the occasion of Rubber Ducky Day, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and have been featured in People magazine and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Celebrity guests are often made Honorary Duckmasters for the day.


Young spectators line the carpet as the ducks march
You might say the ducks rule the roost at the Peabody. From their Royal Duck Palace on the rooftop to the reserved elevator after their short march from the fountain down the red carpet to the return to their penthouse palace, they command everyone's attention.

Naturally no duck dish is served in any of the hotel's restaurants out of respect for the celebrity water fowl. That includes their famous French restaurant, Chez Philippe ruled over by Peabody Executive Chef Andreas Kisle, the Capriccio Grill, an Italian Steakhouse, or the Peabody Deli and Desserts. The Chez Phillip is possibly the only four star restaurant in the world that does not serve duck.

How the ducks came to reside at the Peabody is a story in itself. It began in the 1930s when the hotel manager, Frank Schutt, and a friend returned from a duck hunting trip. They may have imbibed a bit too freely and got the idea to put their live duck decoys (which were legal those days) in the Travertine marble fountain that has always graced the Peabody lobby.
Guests loved the ducks and they became a fixture. Today's ducks are always mallards, one male and four females.  

Edward Pembroke who worked as a bellman was a former circus animal trainer. In 1940, he offered to help with training the ducks and the famous Peabody Duck March at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily became a tradition.

Mr. Pembroke was the first Duckmaster and remained in that position for 50 years until he retired in 1991. Duckmaster Anthony is only the fifth person to hold the title of Duckmaster.

The ducks serve for just three months and then are returned to the farm where they were raised to livie out their lives as wild ducks.

Duckmaster Anthony told of a former duckmaster trainee, one Silas Harris. "When he went to the roof to get the ducks for the morning march somehow one of the hens did not care for Mr. Harris. She flew off the building. The man was distraught as he knew he had to go down and face Mr. Pembroke. When he got to the lobby and marched the remaining four ducks to the fountain, Mr. Pembroke demanded, 'Mr. Harris, where is that  other duck?' Just at that moment, a customer came n the front door with the duck in his arms, asking. 'Is this one yours?'' He probably saved the poor man's job. Mr. Harris went on to work at the hotel for the next fifty years."

A luxurious suite at the Peabody
I asked if the ducks had names. Duckmaster Anthony replied, "No. I don't give them names or pick them up and pet them. I would get too attached to them. To do so would make it harder for them to be returned to the wild. Once I get new ducks trained, the old ducks and I will go visit a school or retirement home for people who might not get to see the ducks."

I think if I were one of the Peabody ducks, I would not want to retire and return to having to live in the wild on an eight acre farm. That $200,000 penthouse palace is pretty plush.

Of course, the accommodations for human guest are pretty plush too. This is a four star establishment. There are 464  guest rooms  which include 15 suites.

The Memorabilia Room
Your pet is welcome here but there are limited dog-friendly rooms available so if Fido is traveling with you, reserve early. And no, Fido cannot attend the Duck March for the safety of the ducks.

Be sure to visit their Memorabilia Room to learn about the history of this grand hotel. To keep in shape visit the Peabody Athletic Club, a well equipped Nautilus Training Center with a Grecian-style indoor heated swimming pool and whirlpool spa. To get even more relaxed stop in for a refreshing day at Goulds Day Spa and Salon.

I can guarantee you won't find a more unique and fun place to stay in all of Tennessee and probably anywhere. I mean how many hotels have a full time duckmaster and five resident ducks.

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