WW GOES TO WDW at Yesterland.com

The Peabody Ducks

of Orlando

and the Peabody Duck March
 
1986-2013

An Orlando institution recently ended a beloved tradition involving five celebrity ducks.

No. It wasn’t Walt Disney World. The five celebrity ducks are not Donald, Daisy, Huey, Louie, and Dewey.

According to TripAdvisor, there are 328 hotels in Orlando and another 162 hotels in nearby Kissimmee. For almost 27 years, one of them had ducks that spent the day in a fancy marble lobby and the night in a duck penthouse.

It was the Peabody Orlando Hotel. The tradition began when the hotel opened on November 1, 1986. It came to an end when the hotel became a Hyatt Regency on October 1, 2013. The ducks are now part of Yesterland.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, October 11, 2013.

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

Celebrity ducks: four Mallard hens and one Mallard drake


The Peabody Orlando Hotel always stood out in the crowd of Central Florida hotels. When it opened in 1986, it cost $90 million and had 893 rooms in a 27-story tower. It was the second Peabody Hotel; the Memphis original dates back to 1869, has been in its current building since 1925, and continues to be one of America’s most famous hotels.

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

2010 Peabody tower

In 2010, a $450 million enhancement added a 32-story tower, taking the room count to 1,641. At a height of 428 feet, it is 28 feet taller than the SeaWorld Sky Tower and almost twice as tall as the 226-foot Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont. In fact, Orlando’s only taller building is the 441-foot SunTrust Center office building downtown.

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

Hotel fountain

However, what really made the Peabody Orlando Hotel stand out was not its mighty height, but its not-so-mighty ducks.

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

Almost time for the Peabody Duck March

The tradition wasn’t just about having five ducks splashing in the lobby fountain. The big event twice each day was the Peabody Duck March.

Here’s how the official Peabody Orlando website described the Peabody Duck March before the website was taken down at the switchover to Hyatt:

Since opening its doors on November 1, 1986, The Peabody Orlando has continued, in unbroken sequence, the traditional March of The Peabody Ducks which began at its sister property, The Peabody Memphis, many, many years ago.

Each morning, promptly at 11 a.m., the hotel’s atrium lobby is the scene of a remarkable ritual. In a special elevator, the five North American mallard ducks, four hens and one drake, comprising The Peabody Ducks, descend from their $100,000 penthouse Royal Duck Palace.

When the elevator doors open, The Peabody Ducks, accompanied by their crimson-and-gold- braid-jacketed Duck Master™, take up their positions on a plush red carpet and begin The March of The Peabody Orlando Ducks to the strident tones of John Philip Sousa’s King Cotton March.

They waddle their way in formation through the hotel’s marble halls, and when they reach the magnificent, orchid-crowned fountain, which takes center stage in the Atrium Lobby, the ducks mount three red-carpeted steps and splash into the fountain’s waters. Tumultuous applause reverberates through the lofty, foliage-draped lobby, and standing ovations are the order of the day by the hundreds of onlookers who daily crowd into the hotel to see one of the greatest shows on earth.

At 5 p.m., the procession is reversed, The Peabody Orlando Ducks marching back to their special elevator, then to their Royal Duck Palace for dinner and a quiet evening together.

Crowds of convention guests, business travelers, and vacationers would gather for each Peabody Duck March.

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

Evening procession audience

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

On the red carpet

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

Ducks on the elevator to their penthouse, escorted by the Duck Master

Before it was taken down, the official Peabody Orlando website also explained how the original Peabody in Memphis came to have ducks:

How did the tradition of the North American Mallard ducks in the lobby fountain of The Peabody Memphis begin? Back in the 1930s, Frank Schutt, general manager of The Peabody Memphis, and his life-long friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had had a little too much Tennessee sippin’ whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys), into the black travertine fountain of the Peabody hotel. Three small English call ducks were selected, and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition that was to become internationally famous. The original ducks have long since gone, but after 75 years, their progeny live on in the graceful, marble fountain in “The South’s Grand Hotel,” The Peabody Memphis, and also at The Peabody Little Rock and The Peabody Orlando.

At one time, there were three Peabody Hotels. In 2002, the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock became a Peabody, complete with its own set of ducks. But in mid-2013 the hotel converted to a full-service Marriott, with no ducks.

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

The former Peabody Orlando

What do you get when you add $90 million (the original cost of Peabody Orlando Hotel) and $450 million (The 2010 expansion)? You get $717 million.

That’s what Hyatt agreed to pay for the Peabody Orlando in August 2013. With the closing of that deal, the hotel became the Hyatt Regency Orlando Convention Center on October 1, 2013. Hyatt gained a spectacular property with a great location, attached to the second largest convention center in the United States (after McCormick Place in Chicago).

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Duckless fountain on October 4, 2013

The ducks lost their jobs. They made their final march on September 30, 2013.

The ducks have a new home. It’s the same farm where other retired Peabody ducks are living out their lives.

The Peabody Ducks of Orlando

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

The last remaining duck

There’s one duck left at the Hyatt. He’s a mosaic North American Mallard drake (actually, just part of him) in the polished floor at one of the entrances into the newly branded Hyatt. Chances are he won’t be around too long as Hyatt erases such vestiges of the past.

If you regret never seeing the Peabody Duck March in Orlando, you need to plan a trip to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.


Click here to post comments at MiceChat about this article.


Swan & Dolphin Monorail?
Hyperion Wharf
Home


© 2013 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated October 11, 2013.