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Pink Flamingos, Other Yard ‘Art’ Gaining Acceptability, Expert Says

June 18, 1989

REEDSVILLE, Pa. (AP) _ Elaine Witherite keeps a 3-foot-tall furry cloth cow on her lawn because it’s good for business. The yard art business.

On sale next door at Ron’s IGA, which she owns with her husband, are furry Holsteins, bird baths, ornamental glass balls and concrete figurines in the form of 3 1/2 -foot-tall deer, elves and Chinese lions.

Ron’s IGA, where sales of lawn decorations have doubled in each of the last three years, is on the cutting edge of American culture.

″Yard art is being adopted by a wider range of classes,″ including yuppies, said Anne Marie Thigpen, a lecturer at Penn State University who is writing a book titled ″Outdoor Decor.″

Even the plastic pink flamingo - long considered the king of kitsch - has migrated from ethnic, working class neighborhoods to well-groomed suburbs, she said.

″The pink flamingo is so blatantly kitsch, it’s the only thing that’s safe to use,″ Mrs. Thigpen said.

Yuppies who can’t quite stomach pink flamingos have altered existing lawn ornaments to meet their upscale sensibilities, she said. ″Instead of a plastic duck, they have a bronze crane.″

National retail chains and mail order catalogues have moved to meet the growing demand for yard art.

W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the nation’s oldest seed company, in the past two years ago has started offering decorative garden accessories in its catalog.

″We sell mostly something that has function to it,″ said Eileen Kearney, merchandise manager at Burpee, headquartered in Warminster.

Burpee offers brass duck faucet heads and swan-shaped hose guides, which are spikes to keep hoses from being pulled over gardens.

K mart Corp. has long sold lawn ornaments but has experienced a surge in sales in the last three years, said Stephen Pagnani, marketing coordinator at the company’s headquarters in Troy, Mich.

Yard art may be ″just something else to mow around,″ in Mrs. Witherite’s words, but the money is good. She said Ron’s IGA sold 10 black bears after dinnertime one night recently for $29.95 each.

Mrs. Thigpen has been researching lawn ornaments for more than three years, studying yard art in California and in the East from Quebec to Florida.

Giant butterflies have given way in the East to eye-catching wood or plastic backsides of men and women. In the West, she said, donkey cart planters are very popular.

Surprisingly, she said, ersatz flamingos are popular in Florida, where the real birds exists, and mock deer and cows are popular in areas such as Pennsylvania, where the animals thrive.

″People really tend to reinforce their environment with these things,″ she said.

In her yard several miles from Penn State’s campus, Mrs. Thigpen has wagon wheels, flamingos and a wind-powered ″whirly gig,″ which shows a small wooden man milking a small wooden cow.

Mrs. Thigpen said homeowners decorate their lawn to show their individuality.

″It’s a way to say, ’This place is mine,‴ she said.

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