What’s with the flamingos around Aspen? | VailDaily.com

What’s with the flamingos around Aspen?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Vail, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesPink, plastic flamingos line the planter outside Mountain Flowers of Aspen. The colorful birds have popped up all over town in advance of Friday's Aspen Education Foundation fundraiser - May Madness 2010: Flamingo A-Go-Go.

ASPEN – Colorado’s education funding is hardly in the pink, but the Aspen Education Foundation’s latest campaign certainly is.

Pink, plastic flamingos have popped up all over town in advance of the organization’s annual May Madness fundraiser, which this year has taken on both added significance and a new theme. May Madness 2010: Flamingo A-Go-Go takes place Friday at the St. Regis Aspen Resort.

It is, for the first time, an advance sellout, which may be an acknowledgment that school district funding can use the help, or may simply reflect the popularity of the offseason party.

At any rate, 486 tickets have been sold, though the event will offer a late-evening $50 admission for dancing and drinks, starting at 9:30 p.m., for the first time. Tickets for teachers and their guests were $25 apiece; tickets for the general public were snapped up at $100 or $125 per person, good for a sit-down dinner and dancing to live music from a Denver band, Jakarta.

The flamingos, according to Executive Director Cindy Kahn, are the brainchild of event chairperson Jody Fagen.

The colorful birds have been placed in lawns and public places, with permission, but without explanation – a marketing tactic disguised as a lawn ornament. The idea, Kahn said, is people will ask about them.

“We want people to know we’re here,” she said.

The organization purchased 500 of the birds, figuring some of them would be pilfered – a flock at the roundabout was reported stolen Tuesday evening – and others will be purchased Friday for a chance at a prize of diamond hoops. The remainder may ensure Flamingo A-Go-Go isn’t a one-time event.

In addition, youngsters are selling little, flexible flamingo figurines; buyers have a shot at an iPad, to be awarded in a drawing. The top seller gets one, too.

The foundation raised a record $300,000 at last year’s May Madness, and plugged $250,000 into the local school district for the 2009-10 school year. Kahn would like to up that sum to $500,000 this year.

That happens to be roughly what the Aspen School District expects to cut from its budget for 2010-11 in response to state funding cuts.

Even without the current fiscal crisis, the state’s system for funding education drives the need for the Aspen Education Foundation, Kahn believes.

“We have to up our game, period,” she said. “Living in the state of Colorado, we have to up our game.”

But, the nonprofit’s mission – supporting the schools by raising funds from the community – may be more important than ever given what’s occurring on a state level.

“We’re not just raising money for little, special frills – we’re raising money for a math specialist, a language specialist … a college counselor – positions we should have,” Kahn said.

For more on the foundation, go to http://www.aspenaef.org.


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