Life is Just Quacky: An Interview with Duckmaster Anthony Petrina

Peabody Hotel - Executive King Room: Peabody Memphis

All new redesigned rooms await at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Photo from Peabody Memphis.

Peabody Rooftop: Kerry Crawford
Duckmaster - Anthony Petrina: Peabody Memphis

Anthony Petrina is the official Duckmaster for the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Photo by Peabody Memphis.

The Peabody Memphis: The Peabody Memphis

The Peabody Memphis, the South's Grand Hotel

Zach Randolph of Memphis Grizzlies - Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Zach Randolph drives to the hoop for the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Anthony Petrina may just have the coolest job in the world. Not only does he work at the fabulous Peabody Hotel, but  he also hangs out with some of Memphis’ most famous residents every day. He is the official Peabody Duckmaster (Yes, that’s his actual title), and his job involves a lot more than you might think.

What are the duties of the Peabody Duckmaster?
As Duckmaster, I am in charge of the care, protection, and training of the Peabody Ducks. I am also chiefly responsible for their daily marches to and from the fountain, the upkeep of the Royal Duck Palace, and attending public appearances on behalf of the hotel, both with and without the ducks. Some of our favorite excursions are to Memphis area elementary schools. The ducks and I visit 30-40 schools every year.
 
What kind of training is involved in becoming the Duckmaster?
When I first started, I took a short apprenticeship with the previous Duckmaster at the Peabody Memphis. I also traveled to the Peabody Orlando to work with their spokesperson, Donald the Duckmaster! I learned everything from how to care for their dietary needs, how to travel with them on the road, and, most importantly, how to train them to march on that red carpet.
 
What is your favorite part about being the Duckmaster?
While the ducks are wonderful, I actually enjoy interacting with people the most. I have met travelers from all over the globe who have flocked to see our ducks. I have even gotten to meet a few celebrities! Peter Frampton, George Hamilton, and Memphis Grizzlies small forward, Quincy Pondexter, to name just a few.
 
How long is the tenure of a Peabody Duck? Do the ducks have names?
Although no shortage of names have been suggested (Daffy, Donald, and Elvis are good ones) the Peabody Ducks are wild, so I actually avoid naming the ducks. I don’t want to get into the habit of treating them like pets A local farmer and his family have been raising wild Peabody Ducks for the last 30 years. Since they are wild ducks, I don’t pick them up or pet them, I don’t feed them from my hands, and we only keep them for three months. After that, we actually return our ducks back to our farmer so that they can retire to the wild. Our ducks may be trained, but they are never tamed.
 
What does a typical day in the life of the Duckmaster look like?
While some things stay the same, such as the daily Duck Marches at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., most weeks are very different from each other. One week I may be training new ducks, and the next week I will be out visiting and marching the ducks for schools and retirement homes. I may bring the ducks to commemorate a grand opening, like to maiden voyage of the American Queen Steamboat or the opening of the KROC Center.
 
What is your favorite Peabody Hotel fun fact?
Our ducks live better than we do! Not only do they get what can only be compared to full-time butler service, but they live on the highest level of the hotel in the $200,000 Royal Duck Palace. They have exquisite granite flooring, a front lawn, their own miniature version of the hotel to sleep in, a sun deck, a custom bronze fountain to swim around, and an unbeatable view of the city. Not that I’m jealous or anything…
 
What do you do when you’re outside of your Duckmaster uniform?
The Peabody Ducks are tough bosses, and they keep me busy full time here at the hotel. When I do have downtime, I try to maintain my blog at www.peabodyduckmaster.com, and I like to take guests and locals alike on history tours of the hotel after the morning Duck March.
 
What are your favorite Memphis restaurants?
Well, I love to spoil myself at the delicious Peabody Hotel restaurants, Capriccio and Chez Philippe. After that, it’s a tight race between Central BBQ, Local Gastropub, and Molly’s La Casita. However, as long as a restaurant doesn’t try to serve me any duck dishes, I’m usually happy at any local spot.
 
If it’s a visitor’s first time in Memphis, what are some activities you suggest they do (outside of viewing the Peabody Duck March, of course)? Obviously they have to go the Graceland and Beale Street! A visit to the Kings, Elvis and B.B., is as Memphis as marching ducks and eating barbecue.