June 23, 2015

THE MAN WHO CREATED THE PINK PLASTIC FLAMINGO — the Official City Bird of Madison, Wisconsin — Donald Featherstone has died. Featherstone was an important figure in Leominster, Massachusetts, where he worked for Union Products for 43 years and, with his wife Nancy, dressed in matching (often flamingo-patterned) clothes for 35 years, but he was important, too, in Madison, where citizens will never forget that day in 1979 when the Pail & Shovel Party installed 1,008 plastic flamingos on the hill in the center of the University of Wisconsin campus to celebrate the victory in the student government election of candidates who said they’d convert the budget to pennies and dump them Library Mall to be scooped up by students using pails and shovels. As one of the winning candidates said: “The student government at that time consisted of the self-appointed descendants of the superstar leftists of the sixties…. It was very closed, very humorless and extraordinarily serious.” That’s what the flamingos mean to us here: Resisting humorless politics since 1979.

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