With homecoming week in full effect, the Wisconsin Alumni Association will ring in the weekend with a familiar flock of pink plastic birds.

In 1979, legendary prankster and member of the Pail and Shovel Party, Leon Varjian placed 1,008 plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill. WAA Senior Marketing Coordinator Caroline Radaj said there was no meaning behind Varjian’s choice of animal, but his prank is the reason why the flamingo is the unofficial bird of Madison.

“A group of my colleagues brainstormed what can we do to have this big, digital social media effort to get people to give, and it came out to be ‘Fill the Hill’ with the flamingos,” Radaj said. “It was a goofy thing on campus, but people know about it and will recognize it again when they come back to campus.”

Though Varjian passed earlier this month, the tradition of pink flamingos continues to live on.

Legendary UW prankster passes, but memory lives onAs the leader of the Pail and Shovel Party, Leon Varjian’s memory will continue to live on through the notorious pranks Read…

Radaj said Fill the Hill’s goal is to place 1,008 flamingos on Bascom Hill. The decision on 1,008 flamingos was made to honor Varjian, and a flamingo will be placed for every donation of $250 or more. The donation process will begin Thursday.

Starting at 5 p.m., Badger Call students will begin their alumni outreach, which will kick off the 24-hour campaign. But the only way for students to get a flamingo is to contribute a $250 donation.

“I know there will be students who steal — it’s inevitable,” Radaj said. “We have people who will be on the hill watching, but we don’t want to be on the hill to yell at students. So we have people on the hill to watch the flock, but also serve as an ambassador.”

Radaj said the fundraiser is completely transparent to students. But in continuing that theme, if students try to remove a flamingo from the hill, those watching will use it as an opportunity to inform students about the ornaments’ significance. This means flamingo watchers will take time to explain to students that the sea of pink is a symbol of the support alumni have for the university and experiences students have at UW.

The fundraiser is in its third year, Radaj said and in the past, during its 24-hour span, the university has raised more than $160,000.

“Our students are really what make alumni excited to give to the university. It’s what makes them want this university to continue to succeed,” Radaj said. “The flamingos represent this huge group of alumni who are giving to this university because they want students to have the best educational experience you can possibly have.”