What’s with the pink flamingos in front of the Fire Station?

By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media, February 24, 2021

flamingos at fire station

Who put the pink flamingos in front of the fire station and how much do they want to remove them? Read on... (Photo by Laura Hagar Rush)

UPDATE: The flamingos have since moved on to the front yards of Mayor Una Glass and Councilmember Diana Rich.

Sebastopudlians driving down Bodega Avenue this morning saw an unusual sight in front of the Sebastopol Fire Department: a flock of flamingos.

Pink, plastic flamingos to be exact — some with hand-knitted scarves, some painted, some beribboned, and one with a pink feather boa and pink flamingo glasses.

The flamingos arrived under the cover of darkness last night, and text messages ricocheted among members of the Sebastopol City Council, who wondered where the birds had come from and what they were for. (This reporter received a late night text from one of the council members titled “Breaking news!”)

An early morning investigation provided the answer. The flamingo visitation is courtesy of Elizabeth Smith and her fellow West County Soroptimists, as part of a fundraising effort for the fledging club.

Smith, who with a friend revived the Soroptimist Club in west county in 2018, said “We really haven’t had an opportunity to do any sort of fundraiser, because we’ve gone from crisis after crisis, between the floods, the fires and now the pandemic.”

The Soroptomists are raising money, Smith said, “so that we can do good for women and girls in our community, specifically for a program called “Live Your Dream,” which is a scholarship to support women, who are the head of their household with dependents, going back to school.”

Smith, who moved to Sebastopol from Yuba City in 2018, said Live Your Dream is a national program, “done all across America in Soroptimist Clubs.”

The West County Soroptimists are working to raise money for the club and the $1,000 scholarships the club gives women in west county who want to go back to school.

Despite being hamstrung by various disasters, Smith said they’ve managed to fund “Live Your Dream” scholarships for two women thus far.

How do flamingos translate into fundraising?

Here’s the idea: the Soroptimists put a flock of pink plastic flamingos in someone’s yard or outside a business, and then it’s up to that person or organization to pay (i.e. donate) to have them “relocated.”

Smith doesn’t expect the Fire Department to pay — this particular flock was pre-paid for by a friend of Smith’s, a fellow Soroptimist from Southern California —  but Smith wouldn’t mind if someone else want to pay to have them relocated elsewhere. She’s hoping her flock of flamingos will make their way around Sebastopol and around west county, raising money for the local Soroptomist chapter as they go.

According to a sign next to the flamingos, there are three levels of suggested donations:

  • For $25, “Flock Removal Technicians will remove the flamingos from your yard.”
  • For $50, “Flock Removal Technicians will remove the flamingos from your yard and relocate them to a friend of your choosing.”
  • For $100, “Flock Removal Technicians will remove the flamingos from your yard with insurance coverage for one year to prevent future flamingo parties in your yard.”

Smith’s flock of flamingos—she has 22 of them—are rather special.

“Some of the flamingos are vintage,” she said. “My hometown club of Soroptimists donated their flamingos to us – along with a pink feather boa and pink flamingo sunglasses. And so, that flamingo’s extra special to me because it reminds me of my sisters from my hometown club.”

Smith, who never does things by half, decided to get the larger community involved by having local people decorate the flamingos.

“I call it flocking with flair – with West Sonoma County flair,” she said, “so we started giving out the flamingos and people started decorating them.”

Her neighbors helped out, and she got some of the children from Castle Daycare to decorate flamingos as well.

Being “flocked,” as it’s called, is considered an honor – a bit like toilet papering athletes’ homes before the big game (but a lot less messy). That’s why Smith says the club decided to flock the fire department.

After her friend donated the money and told her “get flocking,” Smith said she thought, “Let’s go flock the fire department so that they feel appreciated, and it will be something fun and bring people joy whenever they drive by.”

Next, she’s eyeing the police station, and she said she’d be delighted if someone in the community would pay the Soroptimist’s “Flock Removal Technicians” to move them there — or anywhere else.

Interested parties can donate at https://www.westsonomacountysoroptimist.org/flamingoflocking.