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The history of the pink lawn flamingo in Madison, WI


Bascon Hill’s flamingos are well protected. | Photo by @sarahlmaughan

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What the flock is up with all the lawn flamingos on the isthmus?

In 2009, the City of Madison declared the pink lawn flamingo as the official bird of the city. And in 2018, Forward Madison announced its official mascot would be the flamingo. But why?

It all goes back to 1979 + a UW-Madison prank.

A prankster group — known as the Pail & Shovel — won the student government election that year, running on a platform that promised to take the school budget in pennies and dump them on the Library Mall + many other pranks.

As part of a series of pranks, the group purchased 1,008 (You can only order by the dozen — 12 x 84 = 1,008) pink lawn flamingos to set up on Bascom Hill for the first day of classes. And below is what students saw....

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Photos from the day of the event. | Photo from @UWMadison

On the 30th anniversary of the flamingo bomb, Madison’s City Council voted 15-4 to recognize the pink plastic lawn flamingo as the official bird of the city.

So, where can you find the kitschy city mascot?

🦩 “Fill the Hill” — An annual fundraiser by the Wisconsin Alumni Association that recreates the event on Bascom Hill. Pop over to campus today to see flamingos out in full force for UW-Madison’s Homecoming fundraiser.

🦩 Flamingo Mural on East Johnson St. + Blount St. — Painted by local artists @ohyastudio + @triangulad0r, this mural embodies the quirkiness of the city.


Can’t miss the brightly colored mural on your drive. | Photo by @triangulador

🦩 Madison Forward FC games — Rain, snow, or shine, you can’t miss the flamingos in the stands or on the players’ jerseys. Catch the last of the Foward’s season before the flamingos fly the coop this Sat., Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.


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