The Peabody Hotel Duckmaster gives us a bird’s eye view of Memphis

Kenon Walker, Duckmaster and Historian at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis

Courtesy of the Peabody Hotel

The Peabody Hotel really keeps his ducks in a row. Every morning at 11 am, her five North American resident mallards leave their “Royal Duck Palace” on the hotel roof and waddle up to the elevator, descending a dozen floors until as the doors open to reveal a red carpet lined with guests. The ducks then parade in single file across the carpet to the center of the lobby, where they jump into a travertine fountain to play all day. At 5 years old, they go back to their rooftop excavations. “It’s an unusual ceremony, but I see the effect it has on people,” says Kenon Walker, hotel Duckmaster since 2020. “I love how something so simple can make a difference. so much joy to people. ” Here he shares duck dramas, the special treatment he gives to his mallards, and his favorite things to do around Memphis when he’s not dealing with waterfowl.

Training day
“Every three months we rotate our ducks and free the current group to live on a neighboring farm. The first steps of the new team take place in front of everyone. I try to line the red carpet of people all the way from the elevator to the fountain so that they form a human tunnel; otherwise, I do a lot of cardio. I literally had to hunt ducks in the gift shop, behind the bar, and down to the valet service. After about two weeks they get used to it.

Courtesy of the Peabody Hotel

Royal treatment
“The $ 200,000 marble Royal Duck Palace on the hotel’s roof has a wall of glass that gives mallards a great view of the city center. They even have their own miniature replica of the Peabody Hotel to crawl inside for a nap. On weekends, the hotel sets up a bar next to the Palace for guests to sip cocktails and watch the ducks as the sun sets.

“I feed the ducks scraped grains on a silver platter twice a day. The hotel has a French restaurant (At Philippe), but we do not serve duck at the hotel. Ours is perhaps the only French restaurant in the world that doesn’t have duck on the menu.

Walk in Memphis
“If you are looking for something to do outside of the hotel, my best recommendation is the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. I was a senior tour guide there. I also recommend the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, where I was a historian. This is where people like Otis Redding and Albert King recorded. And it’s the only museum in town with a Soul Train dancefloor.”

As told to Allison Entrekin

This article appears in the Fall / Winter 2021 issue of To the south.

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