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Last of the Leominster Pink Flamingos | Lawn Icons

Last of the Leominster Pink Flamingos | Lawn Icons
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Pink Flamingo
Photo/Art by David Dea/istockphoto
Editor’s Note: Don Featherstone, inventor of the pink plastic flamingo, passed away on June 22, 2015.

In a quiet corner of a bustling flea market in Leominster, Massachusetts, the last of a dying breed are stacked neatly along a chain-link fence. Once a vibrant species, this modest inventory is all that’s left of Phoenicopterus ruber plasticus–the Leominster plastic yard flamingo.

Invented by Don Featherstone in 1957, the creatures’ sole breeding ground for 50 years was the Union Products factory. From there, they migrated to front lawns and flowerbeds around the world–no small feat for such a generally lethargic creature. (The plastic flamingo has, on occasion, been clocked at the feisty speed of 120 mph, although that seems to happen only in Florida during hurricane season.)

An icon of American kitsch, the plastic flamingo remains inexplicably popular. Its demise stems not from lack of demand but from the skyrocketing costs of petroleum-based plastic resin and electricity. In 2006 Union Products stopped operating, and in 2007 the original Don Featherstone mold was sold to a factory in Westmoreland, New York, which is currently producing them.

For a time, a small group of concerned Leominster citizens planned to create a new line of birds from recycled plastic, threatening to spark a bitter cross-border flamingo feud. Sadly, these plans have fizzled, and all that’s left of the once-thriving north-central Massachusetts flamingo-industrial complex is the backlog salvaged from the Union Products warehouse. When the last bird is sold, the most flamboyant creature in New England will fade into the past. Still, no matter where the yard flamingo is produced, it will forever remain our hot-pink gift to the world.

To adopt your own, visit the Leominster Flamingo Company at Tilton & Cook Cooperative, 38 Spruce St., Leominster, MA. Open Thursday-Sunday 9-4. 978-590-7629

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Justin Shatwell


Justin Shatwell


Justin Shatwell is a longtime contributor to Yankee Magazine whose work explores the unique history, culture, and art that sets New England apart from the rest of the world. His article, The Memory Keeper (March/April 2011 issue), was named a finalist for profile of the year by the City and Regional Magazine Association.
Updated Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

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4 Responses to Last of the Leominster Pink Flamingos | Lawn Icons

  1. Pink Flamingos December 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Thanks for the great history writeup. It never ceases to amaze me how popular Plastic Flamingos have become.

    Featherstone Flamingos are still available from our store: They are the originals from Leominster, MA but very limited in stock. We also have many other Plastic Flamingos in stock from Mini Flamingos to twirling to Pink Flamingos with clothing.

    • Linea June 24, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

      In 1985, a boyfriend gifted me with a small lawn flamingo that was to be put into an indoor plant pot, apparently for those who don’t have a lawn on which to display the full size ones. So began my adventure into collecting flamingos, at one point having one of the most eclectic collections of flamingo memorabilia; one of them was stamped onto the flimsy envelope that hair nets used to come in. When I was 49 years old, I decided to get a flamingo that would last my lifetime, a tattoo on my left upper arm wearing red-lensed heart shaped sunglasses.

      I’m not sure why the flamingo struck my fancy, but here it is, 30 years later & I’m still drawn to them & still buying them. My dream would be to own a large parcel of land & fill it with lawn flamingos. What a great story!! RIP Mr. Featherstone…

  2. Jim Demers June 25, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    To clear up any confusion, Mr. Featherstone passed away on June 22, 2015; the note regarding his passing was added to this article just recently.

    • Brenda Darroch June 25, 2015 at 9:41 am #

      Good point, Jim. I’ve clarified that in the opener.

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