From flower beds to gardens, backyards have numerous ways to spruced up, needing just a bit of creativity and elbow grease. If you are looking for a quicker, more efficient way, garden ornaments are an important consideration. Store-bought sculptures, accent pieces, and other decorative pieces make our outdoor spaces shine.
Pink flamingos are a common ornament in American backyards. Since their 1950s origins, their meaning has evolved from a joyful symbol of kitsch to a symbol of low-class humor, and slowly into what is today a fun charity project known as flocking.
Let’s dig deeper and get a better understanding of what a pink flamingo means, its relations to John Walter’s 1972 film, and the irony of its different meanings over time.
Origins of plastic pink flamingos
The tradition of having plastic pink flamingos in gardens began in the 1950s when American homeowners could purchase them on everything, from wallpaper to upholstery fabric and paint-by-number paintings. Their fairly exotic pinkness matched well with the rattan furniture and dreams of Florida beach houses.
In 1957, artist Don Featherstone was part of the Union Products of Massachusetts. His job was to create 3D lawn art. The pink plastic flamingo was his masterpiece at the establishment. Pink was an extremely on-trend color, and since there weren’t a lot of pink animals to work with, flamingoes enjoyed uncontested attention.
Featherstone relied on National Geographic photos to create originals as actual live flamingos were scant in supply in Leominster. It took two weeks to develop molds for the birds, with their manufacture using polystyrene and injection molding. The flamingos were instantly popular among the American public, with buyers grabbing pairs at a fair introductory cost.
The tropical joy run unabated until the turn of the decade into the 1960s. Around this time, people were encouraged to ditch plastics and return to natural materials. Cultural critics were tough on the cheerful lawn decor, and magazines encouraged the public to rid their gardens of gnomes, tiki statues, and lighthouses.
The situation was further toughened for the flamingoes in 1970 as American giant Sears quit selling them. They are, however, still available today on platforms such as Amazon.
John Waters’s 1972 movie ‘Pink Flamingos’ is attributed to the pink beauty’s remaining power. The birds re-emerged as a kitsch icon, with many pointing to the movie as something that put the birds back into public consciousness. A surprising fact is that the movie was not about the birds, but rather about drag queens.
After the movie, pink flamingos’ popularity went up, decorating gay bars, being printed on shirts, and taking up spaces in college campuses. By the early 1980s, the flamingo theme was an actual decorating theme. Enthusiasts enjoyed drinks from flamingo glasses, ate from flamingo plates, and enjoyed their evenings by the light of flamingo-shaped candles.
Over recent years, pranksters, fundraisers, and charities have set up flamingo “invasions,” or flocking of plastic flamingos. Regularly, in the darkness, an organization sets up a flock of flamingos in the yards of homes or businesses with a sign accompanying the flock. The sign explains the placing of the flock for charitable reasons and identifies the charities as well.
Flocking victims can then pay a fee to have the flock removed, select the next victim, and the flock can then descend on another yard. This usually runs until the end of a fundraising event and functions somewhat similarly to the old-school chain letter of the early 2000s.
As expected, some curmudgeons do not appreciate getting flocked, but for the most part, it’s a fun engagement intended for charitable causes. Just choose your target wisely and the charity run will go smoothly. Otherwise, your recipient could simply remove the flock and throw it away or choose to ignore it all.
An important feature that comes with flocking is that at the bottom of the flocking sign, a gentle suggestion is included that if the victim is not in a position to donate at the time, they can have the flock removed at no charge. This allows flocking to maintain its fun reputation while respecting others.
Important Considerations Before Flocking
An important measure to take before flocking businesses and homes is to alert the town or city government. Flocking victims may misunderstand the circumstances and call the police or the local government to complain about trespassing or about the pink flamingos. Thus, preemptively informing them saves you a lot of headaches and a ruined fundraising event.
If you are looking to have a flocking fundraiser, consider the reactions of your potential victims. You don’t want the flocking to end up on a grump’s property who takes them down and throws them away. Instead, choose people who would welcome the flocking with good fun and can handle the financial burden involved comfortably.
Local news media loves fun stories and drives, which can prove a powerful asset in the promotion of the flocking charity. Businesses love the attention flocking gets them as well. Indeed, a large flock of flamingos outside a business is a striking scene, thrilling retailers with the attention it can bring.
The attention a large batch of flamingos in a small space brings is immense. Their notoriety, however, can be amped up by decorating them to further draw attention to your cause. The decorations can go as far as your creativity: you could choose to add outfits, paint silly faces, or form patterns in the flocking.
Bonus Purposes They Serve
A bonus feature that pink flamingos offer is that they are excellent conversation starters. They give your visitors or party guests something to talk about as you break the ice. Considering you don’t have to break the bank to add these decorations to your garden, it is an easy undertaking to bring these fun backyard ideas to life.
Pink flamingos have evolved continuously since their inception into what is currently a fun engagement for the community. After more than 50 years of enduring, the pink flamingo has earned a spot on the American icon list and has even been added to the National Museum catalog.