Pail and Shovel Pranks

Andrew Stiles '80, MS'82

When will the Statue of Liberty rise up from the depths of Lake Mendota again and flamingos party on Bascom Hill?

Abe

The pranks you refer to were the work of the infamous Pail and Shovel Party at UW-Madison. Led by James Mallon ’79 and Leon Varijan, the party was elected to the Wisconsin Student Association in 1978 and re-elected in 1980. The Pail and Shovel Party is no longer in existence at the UW.

The Pail and Shovel Party, so-named for its campaign promise to convert the UW’s budget into pennies for students to collect on Library Mall with pails and shovels, threw expensive campus parties and vowed to “give campus issues the seriousness they deserve.” In the winter of 1979, they erected a gigantic replica of the Statue of Liberty’s head and torch on Lake Mendota, a stunt that made it seem like Lady Liberty was emerging from the lake’s bottom. The first version of the statue fell victim to arson, but when Pail and Shovel was re-elected, a second Lady Liberty was built. This time, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources demanded she be removed from the ice.

The Pail and Shovel Party also put a flock of thousands of pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill in the fall of 1979. Within hours most of the birds were stolen and appeared on lawns throughout the city. Although many students were amused at Pail and Shovel pranks, some were angered at the use of their student fees. Sixty students demanded their student fees be returned, and Pail and Shovel responded by issuing sixty checks for ten cents each. Though they weren’t re-elected for a third term, their pranks live on in stories passed down from students at UW-Madison.