ATLANTIC CITY - An elephant lunching on bread playing Monopoly with the mayor?
It makes perfect sense in the seaside city that inspired the board game, where officials and business owners are seeking to put some sizzle back into the Shore gambling resort.
A four-ton Asian elephant named Duchess, part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which opens Thursday at Boardwalk Hall for shows through Sunday, was paraded up Georgia Avenue in Atlantic City from the cavernous auditorium to a parking lot, where a relatively small game-board replica and a crowd of children and adults waited Wednesday afternoon.
Duchess entered the fenced arena, set up in a parking lot, and proceeded to a modest 10- by 10-foot ground-level Monopoly board replica, where started using her trunk to toss the giant-size dice like a pro. But by the end of a brief round, in which large game pieces - the thimble and sparkly hat - were moved around the board by circus personnel, it was determined that Mayor Don Guardian had won.
Despite the win, Guardian playfully handed over the prize, piece by piece: Four loaves of Formica Bros. bread - known locally as Atlantic City Bread - to the brown-spotted, 40-year-old elephant, which accepted each loaf via her trunk and fed herself the high-carb lunch.
As each loaf quickly disappeared in the large, pink-tongued mouth, Duchess seemed to signal that she wanted more by extending and then twitching her trunk.
"I figured I'd get to take home the bread, but the size of the elephant convinced me otherwise," said Guardian, who had donned tails, bow tie, and top hat similar to what Rich "Uncle" Pennybags wears in the drawings on Chance and Community Chest cards.
Ringmaster David Shipman, who presided over the game, insisted that while Duchess also eats grains, her favorite food besides bread is ice cream. The elephant, he said, eats as much as 300 pounds of food, and drinks the equivalent of 50 gallons of water, each day.
Shipman said the circus was committed to taking the best care of animals like Duchess, and in 1995 opened the Center for Elephant Conservation for breeding, research, and retirement of the creatures.
Although Duchess had been gussied up for the event - given a quick hose shower on the ramp at Boardwalk Hall and adorned with a harness bearing the circus' insignia while being brought to the arena - there were some vagaries that could not be avoided.
"Ewww, it sure smells like an elephant," noted Marie Crossen of Egg Harbor Township as the sea breezes suddenly shifted and brought a whiff of eau de pachyderm to the noses of those gathered for the event.