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Pink Flamingos Soon to Flock With New Feathers

July 25, 1998|From Associated Press

He's big, he's pink, and he stands on a wooden leg.

Meet the Realmingo!

Just when you thought there were enough pink lawn ornaments in your neighborhood, Don Featherstone, father of the original plastic pink flamingo, is reaching into the millennium with a life-size and more lifelike companion to his 41-year-old classic.

"We've lived on our glory all these years," the affable Featherstone says with a smile. "It's time for something new."

Featherstone, president of Union Products Inc. of Leominster, Mass., unveils the Realmingo this weekend at the International Lawn, Garden, and Power Equipment Exposition in Louisville, Ky.

It joins Snomingo, introduced in 1996, as the only real deviations in four decades. However, there have been special production runs of black flamingos, for divorce parties; and blue flamingos, for a neighborhood that had banned pink plastic yard art.

At 30 inches from beak to tail, the bird will be twice the size of the original and will stand on a single wooden leg with the other leg in plastic and tucked up under the body. The black-marker eyes will be replaced by plastic inserts.

"This is a more realistic, more detailed, more upscale flamingo," Featherstone says.

The suggested price is more upscale, too: $19.95 per bird. The original pink flamingo is sold in pairs for around $10.

Featherstone was a young art school graduate in 1957 when he went to work at Union Products. "I thought, 'Hey, nine years of art training and I'm going to design a new fly swatter,' " he recalls with a laugh.

With competition from China, where two-dimensional plastic art could be produced at a lower cost, Featherstone was given the task of taking Union Products into the three-dimensional era of yard art.

He designed six 3-D pieces: a dog, fire hydrant, mushroom, helmet planter, duck and flamingo.

A swan planter introduced later became the company's best seller, but the original pink flamingo developed a cult following.

Featherstone and two other longtime employees bought the company in 1996, and he continues to create designs. The line now includes more than 200 plastic yard art oddities, from Halloween griffins to 14 renderings of Santa Claus.

Lilian Polermo, 74, has worked at the company since the early days of the pink flamingo. "When you work with them all the time, you think, they're kind of homely," she says as she spray-paints the beaks. "But when you see them out in someone's yard, they look nice. They're kind of sporty."

Featherstone is the first to call his creations tacky, but he loves them just the same.

"The flamingo has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people," he says. "At least I made something that was fun."

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