BETHLEHEM — “I feel like I’m going to get arrested any day now,” said Veronica Roddy, the parent of a Bethlehem High School student who runs on the school’s cross-country and track teams. Roddy, who spearheaded the track team’s latest fundraiser, is the woman behind the flock of plastic pink flamingos that have been appearing on lawns all over town.
“They’re so tacky, it’s hysterical,” she said. “People love it.”
A Girl Scout community leader, Roddy said that was how she heard of flamingo flocking, which she believes originated as a scout fundraiser. Since early this century, however, flocking seems to have grown into a fun fundraising phenomenon nationwide.
The pink plastic flamingo, which many associate with Florida lawns, actually had its origins in neighboring Massachusetts, in Leominster, the self-professed Plastics Capital of the World. It has since become a symbol of all things tacky and lowbrow. Which is why it’s so much fun to drop 25 of them in your best friend’s yard — whether to cheer them up during a bad week, or to exact revenge for the last time they embarrassed you in public.
“It becomes this Domino effect,” said Roddy.
How it works: During flamingo “season,” anyone can order the flock of 25 flamingos — for $10 during the week and $25 on weekends — and have them placed, under the cover of darkness, on the lawns of their chosen flockee. When the flockee wakes up to find their yard has been taken over by an army of pink plastic flamingos, there are several things they can do: they can pay $5 to find out who flocked them and, if they choose, pay to flock them back. If they want to ensure that their lawn remains flock-free (in the case, say, of an impending outdoor wedding reception or just a general aversion to the birds), they can pay $20 to take out flamingo insurance and guarantee that the flock won’t return for the rest of the season.
Flocks typically only roost in a yard for less than 48 hours, but those who would like to see them fly away sooner are provided with a number to call and have someone “professionally” remove them. Roddy said, however, that has only happened once and it was due to a misunderstanding. Once she explained the nature of the fundraiser to the homeowner, the flock remained.
“What’s great about it is that it really makes this a community fundraiser, rather than just parents giving money to their child’s organization,” said Roddy. “And it has highlighted our running team, which is good because sports are important but they’re not all given the same attention.”
The fundraiser has been so popular that the first season was extended. The last flock will migrate “south” on Saturday, Nov. 11, she said, to return next spring. Roddy said that she already has orders for next year.
“It’s been so well received by the community,” she said. “They have so much fun with it. And, I think we kind of need something funny like this right now. You can’t look at these birds and hate them.” Roddy said that they have flocked houses of terminally ill patients and families that have suffered losses, and that they’ve been a source of humor and comfort.
“They look amazing,” said Town Supervisor candidate David VanLuven. “I paid to have them land in two neighbors yards because I thought their little girls would love them. And they did!”
The money raised by the flamingos, after overhead costs, will provide $250 scholarships for graduating track students chosen after an interview process. This year, Roddy expects that they will be able to offer one scholarship, but she hopes there will be more in future years as the birds gain in popularity.