Thursday, June 27, 2013

Memphis, Part 1: The March of the Peabody Ducks

Ooooh, boy! Am I excited to share this with you! At last, the completion of yet another bucket list item. This time it is Item #36: Stay in the Peabody Memphis Hotel to see the Peabody Marching Ducks.

Well, my friends, not only did I complete that one, I outdid it. Thanks to Eric, I was able to go above and beyond the original goal on my list. And I have to say, that although I've loved crossing off every single item I've gotten to so far (hugging Tim Tebow will especially always hold a special place in my heart), this one was one of my favorites. Because it's just so random.

As I mentioned before, when looking into staying at the Peabody Hotel, Eric came across the Ducky Day Family Package, which allows you to reserve a room for one night, PLUS serve as Honorary Duckmaster for either the morning or evening duck march, including an official certificate of proclamation, a "Celebriduck" (rubbery ducky in a Duckmaster uniform) and your very own Duckmaster cane, plus a variety of other extras such as valet parking and free duck cookies. Um, sold. However, when Eric first called to make the reservation, our desired dates were all booked up already, so we took whatever was available in our general road trip time frame and built the rest of the trip around that. Yup, we built our trip around marching ducks.

We woke up that Wednesday morning (6/5) a bit earlier than we would've liked (thanks a lot, Ellie), but we did have lots to get done so it really worked out okay. We started off with a walk to a drugstore for some Boogie Wipes and such for poor Ellie, who had caught my cold. Then it was back to the hotel for breakfast, baths/showers, packing of our things (we were checking out right after the march) and some downtime.

A sneak peek at what Duckmasters do behind the scenes! They watch Dora the Explorer. Clothing optional.

We were supposed to meet the Duckmaster downstairs at the concierge desk at approximately 10:45 a.m., but I think we were dressed and downstairs a little earlier than that. When we met Duckmaster Anthony, he went over the general procedure, gave us our Honorary Duckmaster pins and directed us to our reserved table, which was a great perk. The march draws big crowds, so it was perfect for Eric to have a reserved unobstructed spot to watch the action. He was going to be attempting to take both video and pictures at once, after all!

VIP seating, excuuuuuuuse me!

Honorary Duckmasters at our fancy table!

After receiving our instructions we had a little time to kill, so I let Ellie wander the lobby. Unfortunately, it was right about her nap time, so she was getting pretty antsy. Luckily, before we knew it, things were underway.

Shortly before 11:00, Duckmaster Anthony began his presentation. When he had the attention of the crowd, he gave a brief history of the Peabody Hotel and the tradition of the ducks in the fountain. (A brief synopsis: back in the 1930s, the general manager of the hotel went out hunting with some friends and drank a bit too much Tennessee whiskey. Upon their return, they thought it would be funny to place their live duck decoys in the Peabody fountain for guests and staff to discover in the morning. They expected disaster, but as it turned out, the ducks stayed put and were quite a hit, and thus became a permanent fixture. In 1940, a former animal-circus-trainer turned bellman offered to care for the ducks and taught them their current routine, thus becoming the very first Duckmaster.)

Duckmaster Anthony addressing the crowds

After giving the duck history and explaining the tradition of the Duckmaster, Duckmaster Anthony invited Ellie and me to join him and explained that we would be Honorary Duckmasters for the day. (He botched our names pretty badly but hey, what can you do?) Of course, this is very official business, and we were awarded certificates as Anthony made the official proclamation.

Becoming Official Honorary Duckmasters

My certificate! Ellie got one, too.

Then, we were given our Official Duckmaster Rubber Duckies, and our Duckmaster cane. So fancy!

Receiving our Rubber Duckies

Showing off my fancy new cane. I'm totally going to mount it above the mantle someday.

Then, at long last, it was go time. We dropped our goodies off with Eric and followed Duckmaster Anthony into the elevator - Royal Duck Palace Bound! Eric then spent some time taking pictures and watching the crowds grow, as he awaited our return.

Our fancy stuff!

The crowd grows...

Meanwhile, Ellie and I rode the elevator up to the roof with Duckmaster Anthony, then made our way to the Royal Duck Palace, which is quite the fancy home, complete with marble duck fountain and "duck house" that is a replica of the Peabody. Ellie and I were told to wait outside the Palace while Duckmaster Anthony retrieved the stars of the show.

This way to the Duck Palace!

Replica Peabody for the ducks

Enjoying a relaxing swim in their fountain before their big moment!

Then, we were off! As soon as the ducks emerged from their palace, they headed straight for the elevator. They knew just where to go and were headed there in a real hurry. They were just too cute, with their little ducky butts wiggling as fast as could be as they hustled to the elevator!

Ducks on the roof!

Getting into the elevator

When they were all in the elevator, Duckmaster Anthony held us outside for just a few minutes while he called to security (I guess?) to let them know we were ready, so they could go ahead and start the music. When we got the signal to go ahead, we hopped on the elevator with the ducks. The moment was fast approaching!

We're ready!

Riding an elevator with ducks!

After what seemed like a very long elevator ride, we arrived at the lobby. As soon as the doors opened, we were greeted with the flashing of cameras and smartphones galore directed at us. As for the ducks, they took off. They made an absolute beeline for the fountain. I had planned to let the ducks off then set Ellie down to walk after them with me, but they took off running so fast that I just chased after them for the first half of the walk before letting Ellie down. Go ducks!

The March of the Peabody Ducks!

However, there was a slight glitch. Apparently, our ducks were new ducks (the ducks only serve about a three-month term at the Peabody before being returned to a farm to live out their lives as wild ducks, and a new set of ducks are brought in), and Duckmaster Anthony was afraid things may go awry at the fountain. And go awry they did! A couple of the female ducks just did not want to climb those stairs and get into the water, and they did a couple laps around the fountain (being slowly chased by Ellie, naturally). Finally I was able to corral the last two with my Duckmaster cane (so official!) and all was right in Peabody Duck Land once again.

Wait, wait! Not that way, ladies!

Walking with Ellie while Duckmaster Anthony tries to direct the ducks from behind us

Confused ducks

Ellie watching the mayhem

Close encounters of the duck kind!

Off to round up some wayward ducks

If you would like to see this whole spectacle for yourself, please feel free to view the video we have of it. Eric did an awesome job of taking both pictures and video at the same time! The video below includes Duckmaster Anthony's official proclamation declaring us Honorary Duckmasters, the ducks walking on the roof and the actual duck march on the red carpet (and ensuing chaos). If you prefer to see the full video, including all of the above plus Anthony's speech about the history of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel, click here to see the long version. Or, if you prefer your videos short and sweet, click here to see a condensed version of ONLY ducks, and none of Anthony's chatter. Whichever you choose, please enjoy!

VIDEO: The March of the Peabody Ducks, with Honorary Duckmasters Meghan and Ellie!

And that was it! Duckmaster Anthony thanked everyone for coming, and it was all over. Nothing left to do except take pictures, naturally.

The fountain, now with ducks in it!

Oh, you crazy ducks.

Ellie is delighted.

With Duckmaster Anthony

After the whole event we hit up the gift shop for some souvenirs then went up to our room to finish packing and check out. Once we had left our luggage with the bellman for the afternoon and checked out with the front desk, we did a little sight-seeing in the hotel itself. First, we went up to the roof so Eric could see the Duck Palace himself, as well as the view of Memphis from atop the Peabody.

The Peabody sign, up close and personal

Views form the roof

On our way back down we stopped at the memorabilia room on the second floor, which contains cool artifacts like a copy of Elvis Presley's RCA signing bonus, which was signed right in the Peabody lobby when he made the switch from the Sun label (more on Sun Studio tomorrow, and Elvis in the next two posts!), as well as a letter from the manager of the hotel to the chef of the on-site restaurant emphatically stating that no duck should be on the menu.

Left: Elvis's RCA signing bonus; Right: There will be no dead ducks at the Peabody!

And that effectively ended our time at the Peabody Hotel (with the exception of our return to retrieve our luggage and car later that day). From there we were off to do some more sightseeing around town (to come tomorrow!), and to give our exhausted little Duckmaster a much-deserved on-the-go nap.

Poor thing was sick and tired, but such a trooper.

This was such a fun experience and I'm so glad that  not only did I get to cross of this item on my bucket list as-written, but I got to top what I had imagined. Thanks to Eric for making this possible for me! And if you ever find yourself in Memphis, be sure to stop by the Peabody and give the ducks my regards!

Coming up tomorrow: Sightseeing in downtown Memphis!

To see more pictures from our adventures with the Peabody ducks, click here.


Lauren said...

Ok I don't even like ducks much but this looks like such a FUN and memorable experience for you and Ellie!!!! :-) Cute video too, man he did botch your name not cool haha.

Becky said...

WHAT FUN!!!!! I so would've loved to have been there. It made me laugh out loud! What a memorable experience for all of you. Ellie will certainly treasure that video and all of the pictures.