Where can I buy my pink plastic flamingos (and will they look like the ones on Bascom Hill?)

September 2, 2009

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.

Photograph of pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill in 1979. This photograph of pink flamingos on Bascom Hill is ©Michael Kienitz. It is used here with his permission.

Photograph of pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill in 1979 This photograph of pink flamingos on Bascom Hill is ©Michael Kienitz. It is used here with his permission.

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.

Fletcher Keyes September 3, 2009 at 10:11 am

We found them at World of Variety in Cross Plains, also at Ace on Willy St and at Fair Oaks Nursery in Madison.
Fletch & Heather

Nadine September 3, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Fletch & Sarah made a video of their visit to World of Wonder in Cross Plains, where they found pink plastic flamingos for sale for $10 a pair. Here's a link to the video.

Tommy September 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm

I have found them at W.o.V. in Verona as well. I turned mine into a Flabongo, which I believe embodies both the spirit of fun recoginized in '69 as well as capturing one thing that has always defined Badger fans, drinking.

Nadine September 3, 2009 at 5:57 pm

LOL! Tommy, send a photo of your Flabongo and I'll be glad to post it.

martha September 3, 2009 at 7:26 pm

@tommy wth is a flabongo?? i want to see pictures!!

@nadine you rock!!

Nadine September 4, 2009 at 5:07 am

Oops! Just realized I made an error in my previous comment. It's Fletch and Heather these days.

Rich September 5, 2009 at 2:05 am

Is this for real?

Nadine September 5, 2009 at 8:18 am

Of course it's for real, Rich. This is Madison: 75 square miles surrounded by reality.

Justin September 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm

According to this news story, they were made by Pink Inc. of Morton Grove, Ill.


D Strand September 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm

If I put a pink plastic flamingo, PPF, up here in Baltimore, it would probably be attacked by Ravens. I think Edgar Allan Poe would want peace between them, though. Quothe the Raven, Nevermore!

Marty Weil October 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Thanks for leaving a reply on my blog and introducing yourself. I appreciate your interest in the ephemera blog. Come back anytime!

MrCachet October 8, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I think the Chamber of Commerce here in Helena (or the JayCees, not sure which) had a thing going to raise money for some charitable cause – the pair stayed in your yard until you paid up or the snow covered ’em up – which probably ended the whole shebang since it snows here about every other week all year long.

You apparently stopped by my little corner of the blogosphere long enough to follow, but didn’t comment. If you have a moment, I’d like to know how you found me.

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