So last night the Madison City Council voted 15-4 to make the Pink Plastic Flamingo the city’s official bird – and of course now you want to buy not one, but two. That’s right two; the original “official” pink flamingos, designed by Don Featherstone for Union Products, were always sold in pairs: one upright, the other with its head toward the ground.
But perhaps you only need to buy one. If you look closely at the iconic Michael Kientiz photograph of the September 4, 1979 assemblage of pink flamingos on Bascom Hill – the memorable event that led to the City Council’s historic vote nearly three decades late, they all appear to have their heads toward the ground. Then if you compare a close-up photograph of one of the original 1,008 Bascom Hill flamingos now in the possession of the Wisconsin State Historical Society with the Wikipedia photos of what are allegedly the “original” Don Featherstone designs, you’ll also note definite differences in the shape of the bird.
Union Products stopped producing the “original” birds in 2006, but reportedly sold the copyright and plastic molds of Featherstone’s original plastic flamingos to HMC International, LLC a subsidiary of Faster-Form Corporation. A website called Get Flocked reports it is now selling the original Featherstone-designed flamingos.
I’ve posted some links to pink plastic flamingos available through Amazon.com (if you click through and purchase them, this blog earns a few pennies). Other sources include Plastic Flamingos (but these have yellow beaks) and A Flock of Pink Plastic Flamingos. There are links to several brands of pink plastic flamingos, including the original Don Featherstone designs, in the sidebar.
None of the pink plastic flamingos I’ve found online thus far seems to be an exact duplicate of the Bascom Hill flamingos. I tried to call the Wisconsin Historical Museum to see if a curator could look at their flamingo to determine its manufacturer, but I reached voice mail (maybe this is a furlough day). The Historical Society’s Bascom Hill flamingo is reportedly part of the Odd Wisconsin exhibit, so you if you want to see it, visit the Museum at 30 N Carroll St on Capitol Square in Madison (but with all this furlough nonsense, plus the looming Labor Day weekend, I’d call first to make certain they’re open).
Maybe you’re not too fussy about the shape of the pink plastic flamingo you plan to plant in your yard – and that’s fine. However, having spent far too long researching the subject today, I want to caution you to read customer comments (when available) about various models, because it’s clear that not all pink plastic flamingos are well-designed or made to weather Wisconsin winters.
Finally, all things considered, I’d rather buy locally. However, I really do have something else to do today besides query every local lawn and garden store in town about the availability of the Madison’s official bird. If you know where to buy them locally, please leave a comment; or e-mail me the information and I’ll append to this post.
Note (5/23/2015): Some of the links in this post are no longer current. I’m trying to locate some that are.