Flamingos on Bascom Hill have been a Madison cultural icon since the first day of fall classes in 1979. As a victory stunt by the Pail and Shovel Party, which had won the student-government election, leaders Jim Mallon ’79 and vice president Leon Varjian x’83 purchased 1,008 plastic flamingos and planted them all on the hill. Why 1,008? The birds were sold by the dozen, and Varjian wanted to be able to say they had planted more than 1,000. “The smallest number divisible by 12 that’s over 1,000 is 1,008,” the late Varjian said in an interview. The “prank” continues today through Fill the Hill, an annual fundraising event that helps the UW address critical needs. During this period, a flamingo gets placed on the hill for each gift, and the growing flock represents the support of the extended Badger community, whose philanthropy plays a vital role in keeping the UW strong.
In true 2020 fashion, this year’s Fill the Hill is extra special! Our plastic friends are observing physical distancing and won’t be on the hill this year, but that hasn’t stopped the virtual, feathery fun. On Wednesday, alumni began to rally in support of the university through this especially challenging time. But today’s the last day! At 6 p.m. CDT, the flamingos will fly away. There are only a few hours left to join in and add your own flamingo to the (virtual) hill!