LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — On the Maine coast, you expect to see a flock of seagulls. But flamingos? Not so much.
The Waldoboro Fire Department is changing that, one lawn at a time, as they enter the second year of a flamingo-flocking fundraising effort that has put delighted smiles on the faces of many in the midcoast area while generating dollars for the department’s big 175th anniversary party next summer.
In exchange for at least a $20 donation, the department will take its bright pink plastic flock of birds and put them wherever requested — which to date is 114 locations and counting. Bill Maxwell, the assistant fire chief, said that when Chief Paul Smeltzer brought the idea back after a trip to Pennsylvania, the guys on the team were dubious at best.
“We thought, we might do $100, if we’re lucky,” he said Thursday. “But this thing, ever since we started, has been like wildfire. It’s been taking off.”
Earlier this week, the flock landed outside the Lincolnville Town Office. Now, they’re at roost outside a private residence on Orange Street in Rockland, but they won’t rest there long before taking flight for the next flocking locale. Currently there are eight locations on the flamingos’ waiting list.
Maxwell said firefighters initially figured they would charge $20 to have the birds placed somewhere, and then ask the person or business that got flocked $20 to have them removed.
“The list was getting so long we just said the devil with this removing,” he said. “We’re down to only leaving them there a couple of days.”
The birds have really traveled, coming to rest in communities all over Lincoln and Knox counties, as well as making small inroads north into Waldo County. They’ll go even farther, too, according to Maxwell.
“We don’t care. We’ll take the money and run,” he said. “If somebody wants to pay the money and maybe kick in a little for the distance, we’ll go. The more money we can make, the better.”
All money raised by the flock will be used to put on the anniversary party. There are big plans — music acts include the Maine favorites Motor Booty Affair and Rick Charette — and all will be free of charge.
“The overall goal for the whole thing was to have as much free entertainment for the public as possible,” Maxwell said.
The birds have not escaped all this travel unscathed. Originally, there were about 50 in the flock, but time has taken a toll.
“Some of the birds have passed on, and we’re down to maybe 30,” Maxwell said. “We did have one vandalism situation, and a few of them had to be put to rest.”
But it has been well worth the price in birds, he said. Parents have gotten a kick out of flocking their children for birthdays, and vice versa. In addition to the interfamily flockings, friends have flocked friends and people have paid to have places like the Lincoln County News and the Rockport Elementary School get flocked.
“Everybody’s loved it,” he said.
Well — not quite everybody. Out of all the flockees, so far just one person has been upset, according to Maxwell.
“There’s always somebody who doesn’t have a sense of humor,” he said.
And although the identity of the person who pays to have the flocking done is expected to be kept secret, don’t be so sure.
“I tell people I will sing like a parrot for another donation,” Maxwell said.
For information about the Waldoboro Fire Department’s flamingos, call 832-2161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.