Why Do All Preservationists Love Flamingos?

My youngest sister thinks that I am crazy, along with all of my flamingo-loving friends. Some of you, if you are new readers, probably think so as well. What do flamingos and historic preservation have to do with each other? Good question. Issue 1 from May 2007 has an article explaining the flamingo craze, but I’ll reiterate it here.

First off, let me say that while I do like flamingos in general (they’re a funky looking bird after all), flamingos serve as a symbol to us. We didn’t just choose a random mascot to represent us, either. There is a logical explanation.  And the love of flamingos is probably exclusive to our group of Mary Washington friends and those who know our story.

The flamingo ideas began senior year of college during one of our historic preservation classes. We watched a movie about towns battling big box stores such as Wal-Mart. (For the record, by this time, our ban on Wal-Mart had already begun.) In this movie, citizens of Ashland, VA came together to oppose Wal-Mart building in or near their town. They held meetings and hearings and educated each other. Their symbol, to let everyone know that they opposed Wal-Mart was a pink flamingo. They were known as the Pink Flamingos. (Okay, so I don’t know why they chose the flamingo.*) Here is an article about the movie we watched in class: Store Wars.

To sum up the case: Ashland, VA lost their fight against Wal-Mart. We, the Mary Washington preservationists, were devastated by the outcome. Suddenly, the pink flamingo stood for our own preservation battles. The pink flamingo became a symbol to us for greater quality of life and sense of place and preservation practices. And we have since embraced the pink flamingo in all forms. Granted, had Ashland, VA chosen another bird or animal, that may very well be our favorite symbol. But we love the pink flamingo.

Our professors at Mary Washington also came to love the pink flamingo. Before graduation, we went “flamingo-ing” and left pink flamingo on their front lawns with crazy messages written in sidewalk chalk. It was an act of affection and respect, just to clear the record. Flamingos became akin to friendship bracelets from middle school.

Moving ahead to this newsletter/blog – Preservation in Pink – where did this name come from? From the time I wanted to start a newsletter I was tempted to use flamingos in the title since it would be for us and our tangential preservation topics and coffee conversations. Between debating a more obvious title and this one, I finally decided flamingos needed to be somehow included. And there you have Preservation in Pink and the pink flamingos.

(Does that answer your question, Erin? Or do you still think we’re crazy?)

*Editor’s Note: This Article, “The Plight of the Pink Flamingo”  states that Ashland residents chose the Pink Flamingo as their symbol because it was a good visual image of the store’s “crass commercialism and tackiness”.


6 thoughts on “Why Do All Preservationists Love Flamingos?

  1. Erin says:

    Yes thanks for clearing that up for me Kate. Of course I still think you’re crazy just not about the flamingo thing. haha 🙂

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