Homes in Oak Park’s 200 block of Clinton Avenue have gone tropical. In lieu of the traditional wintry holiday displays, neighbors have opted for a splash of pink, choosing to decorate their front lawns with flamingo ornaments.
“It’s so tacky, but it’s a whole lot of joy at the same time,” said Kimberly Garnett, whose yard is now home to a flamingo Santa Claus with a set of flamingo reindeer, complete with a flamingo Rudolph.
The spindly wading bird became the block’s Christmas mascot after a handful of neighbors gathered for socially distant cocktails last winter. COVID-19 cases were particularly high and the neighbors, in need of some laughter, came up with the “crazy idea” to adorn the block’s homes with inflatable flamingo decorations, according to Garnett.
“The tackier, the better,” she added.
The first acquisition was a “horrible” inflatable display of flamingos sitting atop a Christmas bauble purchased through Amazon, Garnett recalled. More of the artificial birds began to take roost, with the neighborhood buying up the flamingo supply of every Home Depot within a 20-mile radius. By the end of last winter, the block was flamingo central.
This year, the neighborhood has gotten even more creative with its displays, choosing to put the flamingos into action. The participating households have fashioned the flamingos into dioramas depicting classic scenes from beloved Christmas movies.
In an homage to “A Christmas Story,” the block has a family of flamingos circled around a leg lamp, while another display shows a flamingo with its tongue frozen to a metal pole.
The illustrious R.V. from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is parked outside another home on the block. A flamingo sits nearby, dressed as the Griswold family’s crazy cousin Eddie with a bathrobe and bomber hat. A cigar hangs out of its beak and an empty Busch Light is pinned to its wing.
There’s also the scene from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” with flamingo Whoville townspeople singing around a Christmas tree.
“There’s a lot of creative people on our block by profession,” Dawn Gonzales told Wednesday Journal. “And then you have people like me, who want to find a creative outlet.”
Gonzales, an attorney, used her flamingos to illustrate the famous courtroom scene in “Miracle on 34th Street,” when Mr. Gailey calls in postal workers carrying huge sacks of letters addressed to Santa Claus to prove Kris Kringle is the true Father Christmas. She even sewed judicial robes for the flamingo posing as the judge.
The block has become a popular haunt for those who appreciate Christmas decorations. For casual walkers, the flamingos come as a pleasant surprise. The window from Gonzales’ home office overlooks the sidewalk, giving her a perfect view of passersby.
“I’ll see people walking their dog or just walking whatever. And I watch them as they slowly realize that they’re surrounded by flamingos,” she said. “It’s like a random discovery of fun.”
Kids in particular seem to get a kick out of the flamingos. A pair of young twins frequent the block regularly, as they did last December as well. Garnett believes they are about three years old.
“They walk by and they look, and they touch,” she said. “They walk by all the time.”
The block has lots of kids, ranging in age, according to Gonzales. Her own children are away at college, but she still sends them pictures of the flamingos.
“They appropriately think we’re silly, but being silly sometimes is perfectly acceptable and appropriate,” Gonzales said.
The block will be participating in a “light up the sidewalk” event Dec. 18. Gonzales invites everyone to swing by the 200 block of Clinton Avenue to see the flamingos in all their gauche glory.
Garnett hopes the flamingos will bring the same joy to others that they have given those who live on the block.
“We’re still in a pandemic,” said Garnett. “We still need a bit of happiness here.”