Flamingo Fling

The Flamingo Fling began 13 years ago from a group of volunteers known as The Tampa Bay Tree Trimmer Club. This ornament club was run by a volunteer committee comprised of such diverse occupations as writer, travel agent, geologist, pediatric ICU nurse and computer programmer. What brought them together was their love for ornaments. They determined they needed a secondary market show where members of the club would have a centralized venue to buy hard to find and retired ornaments, as well as a place to meet the manufacturers and people of importance in the industry. So they set out to research and fundraise for the event. Out of this need,
the Flamingo Fling was born.

The name of the event stemmed from the fact that the event was in Florida (Flamingo) and they wanted the event to be a carefree and fun time for all attendees (Fling). Founding member Clara Johnson Scroggins came to the table with prototypes of ornaments and recommended that while they could not be sold, they could be auctioned at the Fling.

The Fling is an annual event in Tampa held around the end of February/beginning of March. The first three years of the event was run under the auspices of the Tree Trimmer Club. In each of these first three years, the Fling chose a different charity to be the token recipient of all funds raised. They raised an average of $10,000 each year. After the third year, the Flamingo Fling branched out on its own away from the Tree Trimmer Club. It was then that the committee came across a charitable organization that touched them so profoundly that it has been the sole charitable arm for the next ten years – Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. was established in 1982 for the purpose of providing professionally trained guide dogs to the blind, free of charge. Today, their mission has expanded to assist not only the blind, but also individuals seeking a service, therapy or law enforcement dog. The steps required to graduate a successful guide dog team require an average of 21 intensive months at a cost of over $40,000 per dog. Between 80 and 90 dogs graduate from the program every year.

When Flamingo Fling branched out on its own, the committee wanted a special keepsake to commemorate this annual event, unique to the show, which could be a new collection for its attendees, and also a way to raise funds for the Southeastern Guide Dogs. Clara approached ChemArt, knowing that they were the exclusive designers and manufacturers of the Baldwin retail line. ChemArt/Baldwin had been one of the 20 invitation-only vendors that participated in the previous Flings. Together with one of their members, Paul Sadwick, ChemArt created a series of pieces for the next five years that has become the signature piece for the show. Order quantities were kept low so that the piece could be a limited edition, and throughout the years interest and sales have continuously increased. The ornaments are sold at the Fling, and any remainders are donated to the Southeastern Guide Dogs to be sold for their fundraising efforts.

Wayne Ingalls, one of the founding members of the Flamingo Fling, is positive this ornament campaign will continue into the future. “The Flamingo Fling ornament has become a given and expectation. If people cannot attend the Fling, they call to order the ornament.” Wayne continues, “ChemArt has been a presence since the inception of this event. Each year they have become invaluable in their support, not only by partnering with us on the Fling ornament, but also with their generous donations to our auction (under the Baldwin name) and participant gift bags. Each year Baldwin has had a table at the Secondary Market Show, and each year our attendees treat them like royalty. We would not have thought to choose any other company to collaborate with on our ornament.”

In the last 10 years of the Flamingo Fling, the organization has raised over $400,000 to support the Southeastern Guide Dogs, and attendance and interest has bloomed. The event is currently held in the largest ballroom available in the Tampa area. Wayne Ingalls prophesizes that they may soon have to expand into the expo center to accommodate the interest and attendance.

For information on the Flamingo Fling, visit their website at www.flamingofling.org. For information on the Southeastern Guide Dogs, visit their website at http://www.guidedogs.org/.