When you hear the word “flamingo”, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Some people think of their local zoo, flashing back to memories of their first-grade field trip and broccoli they threw in the animal pens. Others vaguely access factoids regarding the strange, yet amusing, coloration of their feathers and why flamingos are so flamboyantly pink. But on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus, only one thought comes to mind:
The honorary city bird that resides on Bascom Hill.
The pink flamingo has become iconic throughout Madison and beyond. It is the symbol of the Annual Fill the Hill campaign, each feathered friend representing a donor that contributed to the fund. The established tradition of the UW flamingos on Bascom Hill is beyond popular, standing 2nd only to the prank involving our very own UW Statue of Liberty in Lake Mendota. Both of these pranks, and many others throughout the history of Madison, can be traced back to the legend-(wait for it)-dary man Leon Varjian.
The #UWFlamingos gonna get #snatched
And after the successful takeover of flamingos on Bascom, his indomitable spirit of prank-dom continued to live on. And it would manifest itself… in me. I, too, wanted to live by his political slogan and embrace the legacy that he left behind. And I thought of the most brilliant way to live up to my predecessor’s image:
Leon filled Bascom Hill with infamous pink lawn ornaments. I would take them all away.
“Honesty, integrity, responsibility … Pail and Shovel doesn’t believe in any of them!” – Varjian’s Slogan
The idea of taking a flamingo was enticing. But taking 1,008 of them? The thought overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even imagine what that many flamingos would look like, let alone where I would store them all. But I would think about that later. I just needed to get them all first… somehow. Bold stories of stolen flamingos constantly circulated around campus. There had to be other students that would join me in my mission. In fact, I already had a partner-in-crime that I knew would help me. And whether it was to have a new piece of furniture to complement their curbside sofa or they needed a makeshift drinking apparatus to store their alcohol, other students would steal the flamingos every year. And this year, I would lead them all.
This is what I would yell as I led the charge onto the battlefield
I wanted a flamingo before I read about Varjian (the bucket list!), but I did not have any real, compelling reasons. I wanted a flamingo simply for the fact of wanting a flamingo. But my partner-in-crime who wanted to do this had other intentions driving his flamingo fervor. This mission had sentimental value attached to it for him, in contrast to my primary motivation being a longtime childish rebellion against authoritative figures and social norms. This flamingo had the power to reunite distant connections and trigger memories of what once was. To some, it meant nothing more than just an improvised beer bong. To my friend, it meant honor. To me, this meant that I would get a flamingo at any cost. “Operation Free the Flamingos” just got personal.
A taste of what is to come…
Part 1/2 complete