September 7, 2021 - 7:14 pm
Amid a crowd of Vegas tourists wandering through the Linq Promenade and the Flamingo, a small makeshift fashion show stuck out Tuesday afternoon.
Participants strutted their pinkest shoes, biggest beaks and best feathers — each proving their passion for flamingos.
One woman strode down the runway, set up in the Flamingo’s entrance, in a bright-pink wig and three flamingo-themed one-piece swimsuits, two of which were peeled off as she showed off each.
The impromptu show was part of the Flamingo Fanatics Fling, the first convention of these birders, at the Flamingo through Thursday.
The convention drew about 70 attendees, mostly women. They came from as far away as Alaska and as close as Las Vegas itself. The purpose was to connect with other Flamingo lovers — to find their flock. Some were traveling for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset, others traveling by themselves for the first time.
“There is nothing but joy that comes to your face when you see a flamingo,” Susan Hyre, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said of the group’s shared passion. “Nothing in a negative sense can come to you because when you see them, they’re peaceful, they’re tranquil and you can be, too.”
Joni Snellgrove, a kindergarten teacher in Dillingham, Alaska, came to the convention, showing off a flamingo Halloween costume her students gave her. She was compelled to come to Vegas after growing closer with group members through a Christmas card exchange.
“My grandmother used to have lawn flamingos and I just loved them as a kid,” Snellgrove said. “Years later, I found some and brought them to Alaska and put them in my yard. Then I discovered this Facebook group of all these other people that like flamingos and we started corresponding, but we’d never met.”
Conventioneers spent the week exploring the Strip in their finest feathers and were frequently stopped to ask about their bright colors.
It’s a point of pride for Hyre, who organized the convention through two Facebook groups. She became interested in setting up the event — to “sprinkle a little pink” — after seeing dozens of discussions in the group about someday meeting up.
The coronavirus pandemic postponed the event from fall 2020 but she found the momentum was still there in 2021. Now, she wants to use the momentum to start a nonprofit for flamingo lovers to donate to shared causes such as bird habitats.
“There’s a lot of things you can do with that momentum, so the mindset needs to be shifted,” Hyre said. “Instead of buying another tchotchke in the grocery store and supporting China’s economy, support people here. Take that passion and shift it a little bit.”
A second annual convention is in the works for fall 2022 in Florida.
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.