The "Plastic" Pink Flamingo: Madison's Official Bird

UPDATED Wednesday, September 2, 2009 --- 9:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- One of the greatest college pranks ever has inspired Madison leaders to name the plastic pink flamingo the city's official bird.

The Madison City Council voted 15-4 on Tuesday to give the plastic bird the distinction.

The reason dates to the classic 1979 prank orchestrated by leaders of the Pail and Shovel Party, which were in charge of student government at the University of Wisconsin at the time. They organized the surprise placement of more than 1,000 pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill, the steep incline that leads to the dean's office.

Resolution sponsor Alderwoman Marsha Rummel says that event "signifies something that makes us a very special place" is "captured in our imaginations forever."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009 --- 7:20 a.m.

Script from 6:00 a.m. newscast:

One of the first things discussed at Tuesday night's Madison council meeting was the city's official bird.

By a 15-to-4 vote, the plastic pink flamingo was named to that spot.

The decision stems from a picture taken 30 years ago outside Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Historical Society says the Pail & Shovel Party put more than one thousand plastic birds in the ground that day.

They were put there after the party won re-election as the official student governing body.

From the Wisconsin Historical Society website:
As sleepy students made their way up Bascom Hill on the first day of classes in 1979, they were greeted by an unbelievable sight: 1,008 pink flamingos covered the hill in front of the dean's office. At 8am on September 4, 1979, members of the now legendary Pail & Shovel Party had begun planting the birds. By 2pm that afternoon, however, the ephemeral wonder had disappeared from the hill, the birds taken one-by-one by students who displayed them for years afterward in their dorm rooms, apartments, and elsewhere around campus. The Party's president, James J. Mallon, and vice-president, Leon D. Varjian, salvaged this flamingo and soon afterward donated it to the State Historical Society to preserve it for posterity.

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