When Dunnellon Elementary School art teacher Michel Yeuell first introduced herself and presented her idea for Flamingo Fever, I was so excited. I think she was nervous that we would have difficulty finding places in the community to host flocks of flamingos, but I knew there would be no shortage of volunteers. One of my favorite memories was after mentioning the project, leaving a City Council Workshop before it was over and being followed out to my car by members of the Rainbow Springs Art Coop, who wanted to make sure I knew flamingos were welcome there.
The original intent was for the flamingos to go up right before Boomtown Days, so people visiting the festival would be able to go around see the flamingos at the same time. From the Chamber standpoint, it also provided a way to showcase businesses around town. I remember how fun it was when my son was little and Marion County had Horse Fever. My son and I drove all over Marion County to see those horses.
To top it all off, isn’t it just fun to say “flock of flamingos?” (I think yes)!
Well, then COVID-19 happened and everything started getting cancelled. Events were cancelled, school was cancelled, businesses were closing or operating on skeleton staffs, just trying to hang in there until the quarantining and social distancing was over.
And still we do not know when that will be over. Parents are homeschooling their students and businesses are collectively holding their breath to see just how bad things are going to get before they get better.
I could see no reason why we should cancel Flamingo Fever. It does not require coming into close contact with others. Many of the flamingos can be seen from the road, and others can be safely viewed from parking lots.
So a few days after recovering from the disappointment of Boomtown Days I contacted Mrs. Yeuell and said, “Let’s do this!” I am so glad I did, because now school and other normal life things are even more cancelled than they were on March 23 when I sent her the email. School is now out until at least May 1. A return to “normal” seems unimaginable to me right now, but I try to stay positive. I know there are a lot of people who feel the same way I do.
But today, I got to see some incredible, creative works of art. There were so many I absolutely loved that I could not choose a favorite. So many of the flamingos seemed to foresee that we, the community as a whole, needed a pick-me-up. There’s one tough looking flamingo that looks a little like the coronavirus graphic we see on the news. There’s another that’s a rainbow, and he comes with a pot of gold! There’s one who is a TV showing the movie Titanic. He even comes with a remote control! There’s a strawberry, an orange, some pop culture references, lots of tigers, some turtles, dragons, dinosaurs and even a tourist.
When the students began to work on these back in October they could not have guessed how much joy they might bring to our community. This is the sort of magic you sometimes get when you give students this sort of project. We needed this magic right now! I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.
We hope you will take the time and go around to see the flamingos. We also hope the 5th grade students will have the opportunity to finish theirs.
See the flamingos at these locations:
American Legion Post 58 10730 US 41
Brannen Bank 11472 N. Williams St.
Coldwell Banker Riverland Realty 11824 N. Williams St.
Grumbles House Antiques & Garden Shop 20799 Walnut St.
Rainbow Springs Art of Dunnellon 20804 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
Trent Snider, CPA 20757 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
Avonelle Mackerell, PA 20743 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
H. Michael Evans, PA 20668 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
Project LIFT building 20540 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Riverland News 20441 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Blue Run Bicycles & Paddle Co. 20312 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
SunTrust Bank 20270 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Rainbow River Hearing & Balance 20170 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Volunteer Thrift Store 12409 N. Florida Ave. (US 41 S)