Photos 1 and 2 by Daniel Deitch; remaining photos by TLHOA
Throughout the pandemic, our civic groups have worked hard to continue promoting community spirit while respecting social distancing guidelines. The Toluca Lake Homeowners Association (TLHOA) took its annual Turkey Trot virtual in fall 2020, but the modified event didn’t generate its usual level of fundraising for local nonprofits, so President Kari Negri, Vice President Dana Boyd and other group leaders decided to try something different.
“We had all been sequestering at home for months and politics and pandemic news were the only conversation. Our fundraising committee, like our neighbors, were bored, tired of cooking and wanted to be out but could not,” Boyd recalls. Searching Pinterest for ideas that would be both COVID-safe and fun, she came across the concept of “flamingo flocking,” in which people can pay a donation to have groups of plastic lawn flamingos deployed to their friends’ homes or pay “insurance” to avoid being flocked themselves. “Originally we thought it would be fun to use swans, but they simply did not make them at any of the suppliers,” Boyd says. “But now we know that the flamingos are best because they stand out — the pink is just ridiculous!”
The TLHOA sprang into action, organizing a neighborhood fundraiser that would run from March through May. New board member Angie Niemeyer, who usually spearheads the Magical Holiday Parade, had extra time available after the 2020 parade was canceled and turned her creative and organizational talents toward logistics, branding and promotion, including ordering themed hoodies for the “flockers” so homeowners would be able to recognize the people delivering flamingos to their property. Terry Herkner ordered the “You’ve been flocked” signs and agreed to host the many birds between flockings.
Over the three months of the event, the flocking team — led by Boyd and including Niemeyer, Herkner, Leah Mangum, Laurie Rowihab and Ruby Lascano Bowen — brought their faux feathered friends into every corner of Toluca Lake and beyond, stretching into Burbank, North Hollywood, Studio City, Sherman Oaks and even, in one case, Hancock Park. (Ironically, TLHOA then received a call from the Hancock Park HOA saying the flock of 75 birds roosting on a lawn violated their historic designation policy. “That made us chuckle; we were due to collect them that day anyway,” Boyd adds.) The group originally thought it would be fun to do the installations at night, but after a few test runs at the homes of Toluca Lake civic leaders, they realized showing up unexpectedly on people’s properties in the dark understandably created safety concerns among the neighbors — not to mention that flockers ran the risk of encountering surprise sprinklers. Lascano Bowen choreographed many of the creative installations, arranging the flamingos in different configurations such as in a circle around a tree, facing a walkway to a door or marching in a line around a large corner lot.
Boyd says the flamingos were greeted by the neighborhood with “laughter and gratitude, shock and delight, and only two neighbors that we know of who wished they were not flocked.” The flocks helped neighbors reach out to each other, marking the births of babies, honoring dogs who passed away, celebrating a 90th birthday and attending a lakeside outdoor cocktail party. Boyd notes that Toluca Lake Beautification Partners Chair Ryan Altoon had the distinction of being flocked twice, and that the fundraiser’s largest order came from past TLHOA President Steve Hampar, who flocked seven friends, including former Council District 4 field deputy Alice Roth.
In May, when the TLHOA deployed flamingos to promote local businesses, some birds roosting on Riverside Drive were “kidnapped.” While it’s dismaying that anyone would steal from a local charity fundraiser, the TLHOA took it in stride and refused to let it dampen the fun. In a public statement, the group advised suspects that they had provided police with security camera footage of the crime and the getaway car, and the incident would be forgiven if the birds were returned to any local business. “Also, some of the birds are going to speak to authorities about what they saw, and not just on that night!” Negri jokes.
Despite this small setback, the flamingos were a soaring success. By the campaign’s completion on June 1, the TLHOA estimated it had flocked nearly 100 homes and businesses and raised approximately $4,000 for the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry, the East Valley Police Activity League Supporters (NoHo PALS) and Toluca Lake Beautification Partners. “As a close-knit community, we went into this fundraiser believing that we knew our neighbors, but we have met so many wonderful people we didn’t know before and built new relationships in Toluca Lake, which has been truly special,” Boyd says. “It was a joy for us to bring fun and laughter to the community, and to share some ups and downs with our neighbors. We have been honored to celebrate life with you, Toluca Lake!”