Each day for nearly one hundred years, a group of ducks have left their penthouse at Memphis’ Peabody Hotel and waddled down a red carpet to spend the day playing in the lobby fountain.
This whimsical tradition dates back to the early 1900’s when the general manager of the Peabody returned from a fruitless hunting trip and placed a group of live ducks in the hotel fountain as a joke. The guests were so delighted by the addition of the adorable birds that the owners decided to let the birds stay. What started as a simple gag has continued throughout the years and is now a daily display of pomp and circumstance.
Every morning around 11:00 AM, the ducks are led down from their rooftop penthouse to a red carpet bordered by adoring onlookers. Accompanied by a Sousa march, the five ducks trot up a small, custom stairway into the placid waters of the marble fountain where they dutifully swim until they are once again led back upstairs around 5:00 PM. The whole ceremony is preceded over by a the “Duckmaster,” a position originally filled by a circus trainer that joined the hotel in the 1940’s, and which is now filled by the occasional celebrity such as Molly Ringwald or Peter Frampton.
When not strutting their stuff for the hotel guests, the ducks live in a $200,000 enclosure on the roof which is built to look like a scaled-down penthouse. The walls are made of glass so that visitors who can’t wait for the daily walk can head up and see the the famous fowl living the high-life. It may have started as a joke, but the popularity of the Peabody Duck March proves that the owners of this hotel certainly aren’t quacks.