You may think you have the coolest job in Memphis, but unless you are marching ducks at the Peabody Hotel, you’re probably wrong. Peabody Duckmaster Anthony Petrina spends his days in the beautiful hotel lobby making kids smile and enjoying life as a goodwill ambassador for the South’s Grand Hotel. Almost everyone know the story of how ducks ended up in the Peabody Hotel fountain, and like every good southern story it involves a little hunting and lot of Jack Daniels on a chilly fall day. Today the custom of the ducks has evolved into a daily march that is as steeped in tradition as the hotel itself.
I sat down with him in the red and green adorned lobby to pick his brain about what it’s like working with farm animals during the holidays. “I love being here especially during the holidays, this was how I was introduced to the hotel; all the decorations were just going up,” Anthony told me.
Anthony was offered the Duckmaster position after working as a manager in the hotel’s restaurants. His bubbly personality, not his animal skills, landed him the job. When I asked him if he had any background in animal training he replied, “Not in animal training, no. My family dogs run the house…and the cats are worse!”
After practicing telling the story and training with the ducks, he was eventually ready for his first march. Anthony informed me that there is no dress rehearsal for the ducks. Each time a new set of ducks makes their debut (every three months), they are seeing a live audience for the first time. In Anthony’s words, this occasionally leads to things going “a fowl.” (Yes he went there, he made a duck pun.) One time it took him 15 minutes to get a new set of ducks into the fountain. “They must have been escape artist ducks before they came here.” He said he’s even had an occasional “diva” duck escape to underneath the huge floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree in the lobby.
To finish up the interview, I decided to throw in a little Christmas Q & A.
1. Favorite Christmas Song?
The more fun ones! Here comes Santa Claus, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. I remember as a kid trying to see Rudolph’s nose passing by. I once saw what I know now to be taillights of a car passing by and I thought it was Rudolph! I was like YES! Christmas presents are here. I was further encouraged by me getting out of bed, sneaking downstairs and gasping because the Christmas presents were actually there.
2. Favorite Christmas Movie?
A Christmas Story, obviously.
3. What’s at the Top of Your Christmas List?
“Nothing from Duck Dynasty. No offense to the show, those guys are great and I love duck stuff, but people come in and they’re like oh yeah, Duck Commander!... Not quite, different show, different attitude towards ducks.”
Backbeat/Peabody Disclaimer: This interview was conducted before Duck Dynasty-Gate!
4. Any Peabody Christmas traditions?
We’ve taken our Christmas family photo in front of the Christmas tree for the last two years. I asked if he wore his Duckmaster uniform in the photo, Anthony replied, “Of course! We may have to change it up next year though.”
There you have it folks. If you want to see Anthony do his thing live and in person go to the Duck March at 11 a.m. or 5 p.m daily. Also if you want to keep up with Anthony’s duck tales (yes another pun!) check out the Peabody Duckmaster Blog. Merry Christmas!
Backbeat tips for best Duck March viewing: Make sure to get there early. People start lining up around an hour before the march. For the best view on a crowded day, choose a spot by the railing upstairs in the mezzanine level. And don’t miss the holiday decorations; they are absolutely breathtaking.