Festive flamingos delight neighbors year-round


The 500 block of North Rios Avenue has a little extra pizzazz thanks to the humorous creativity of Betsy Penberth.

For the past eight years, Penberth has dressed up a family of pink flamingos in her front yard according to the season or holiday. Each month is different: bikinis and beach umbrellas during the summer, racing silks and jockeys when the Del Mar Race Meet is in session, turkeys, pilgrims and Indians for Thanksgiving.

The December display features a Santa Claus pulling a sleigh with a velvety red bag and an eager little girl in ruffled pink pajamas.

Penberth said she started the tradition about eight years ago as a joke when her brother would visit. But neighbors began commenting on how much they enjoyed the flamingos.

“It sort of grew into something I have to keep in the yard, otherwise people write me notes,” Penberth said.

“If I’m working in the yard, people stop and say ‘I love your birds,’ and give me ideas.”

Penberth makes the costumes by hand, often using scraps of material and a glue gun. When she does go to the fabric store for unusual patterns and the clerks ask what it’s for, Penberth said she doesn’t confess.

“I can’t say I’m making a dress for a flamingo,” she said.

A Solana Beach resident since 1970, Penberth said the flamingos are “kind of tacky” and she was concerned neighbors might worry about their effect on home values, but no one has complained.

In fact, it appears to have quite a positive effect. Drivers will stop and back up to view the unexpected treat and the neighborhood children especially look forward to seeing what the flamingos are up to next.

“That’s why I do it,” Penberth said. “I enjoy the pleasure it brings to people, it makes them smile.”