They came in the middle of the night.
Fourteen pink flamingos seemingly flew into the center of the Stockade, perching at Lawrence the Indian’s feet, surrounding his pedestal, balancing precariously next to his bow.
And then, as the sun fell, they were gone, vanishing just as they’d appeared.
Welcome to the Stockade’s Valentine’s Day mystery.
For nearly a decade, someone has decorated Lawrence the Indian with pink flamingos on Feb. 14. Most have no idea who does it or why the day of love is being celebrated with one of the tackiest decorations available in stores today.
But even though Stockaders have been known to argue vehemently over the aesthetics of three little Christmas trees rather than one stately evergreen next to Lawrence, everyone seems to agree that the pink plastic toys are great.
“It’s starting to grow on me,” said longtime Stockader Elio Matarazzo, whose first impression was that the birds were “a little tacky.”
As he contemplated them with a re-
porter Thursday, their pink charm won him over.
“It’s interesting. I think it’s neat,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I think Valentine’s Day is great — it’s the one day you can look for pink flamingos.”
It gives the neighborhood a certain bohemian appeal, others said.
“This is what this neighborhood is all about,” said Stockade Association President Lyn Gordon. “This is what makes the Stockade a unique neighborhood.”
The covert decorators are actually two middle-aged men, who asked for anonymity since they’ve kept their identities a secret for so long.
They said they started putting up flamingos to celebrate the landscaping around the Indian about 10 years ago.
“The park here used to be grassy, brown, no landscaping. It got refurbished — I call it resurrection — but some people thought they preferred it the way it had been,” one of the flamingo owners said. “This was to sort of celebrate the landscaping and have a little fun.”
The goal was to show residents that change could be good, he added.
And, his cohort in crime said, “It was sort of a hoot.”
They struggled a bit to come up with a reason for celebrating the landscaping on Valentine’s Day, which is more often heralded by snow than blooming flowers.
“Sort of like Groundhog Day, we have Flamingo Day,” one of them offered.
“It just happened,” the other man said.
They grinned as they remembered the earliest responses to the decorations.
“It took them a long time to get used to it,” one said. “Then they started to look forward to it.”
Residents who aren’t in the know couldn’t come up with any reason for the decoration, but offered a series of jokes as to why flamingos have taken over Lawrence’s perch.
“There is no truth to the rumor that due to global warming, they have replaced Canadian geese,” quipped Stockader Beverly Elander.
Newcomer Katy Nestor, who came upon the flamingos on her way to Arthur’s Market, said the birds could be the last resort for the dateless.
“If you can, you spend Valentine’s with the ones you love … if you have nobody, come be with the flamingos,” she said. “It’s great. They’re cute.”
Joyce Wachala, co-owner of Arthur’s Market, said the flamingos are particularly welcomed by single residents.
“A lot of people down here are single. Valentine’s Day is so hard for people — and this is so nice,” she said. “I think it’s adorable.”