June 23 is Pink Flamingo Day

pink flamingo day

Today is Pink Flamingo Day, founded on June 23, 2007, by Mayor Dean Mazzarella of Leominster, MA, to honor the 50th birthday of the iconic lawn ornament.

In 1957, art school grad Don Featherstone was tasked with creating a pink flamingo for his employer, Union Products, located in Leominster, often called the Plastics Capital of the World. Using National Geographic photographs as reference material, Featherstone sculpted two pink flamingos. They were meant to be a festive way for homeowners to personalize the identical yards of postwar suburban subdivisions.

Featherstone would go on to create 750 items for Union Products and become the company’s president in 1996. His flamingos were popular but eventually became a target of derision, a symbol of tackiness. Many fans remained defiantly loyal, while neighborhood associations plotted their extinction.

No history would be complete without the mention of John Waters and his 1972 movie, Pink Flamingos. An enthusiastic proponent of all things kitsch, camp and lowbrow, Waters helped bring the decoration to a new audience, one that reveled in irony. It’s clear that pink flamingos continued to sell. So many knockoffs were produced that in the late 1980s, Featherstone added his signature to the molds to identify the real thing.

Featherstone retired in 2000. Union Products closed its doors in 2006, after producing more than 20 million flamingos. Cado Company in Fitchburg, MA, bought the rights a few years later and now manufactures birds with the inventor’s signature on the bottom.

Featherstone passed away on June 22, 2015, at the age of 79, one day shy of the 28th annual Pink Flamingo Day. Claude Chapdelaine, VP at Cado, told Boston Magazine,: “He was just a really nice guy, never took himself seriously. Throughout his career, he made all kinds of lawn and garden ornaments. A lot of people referred to them as being kind of kitsch. He said ‘You know what? It makes people laugh and brings a smile to everybody’s face’ and that’s what he liked.”

Bring a smile to everybody’s face today by planting some pink flamingos of your own. If you have some already, display them prominently—no hiding them behind shrubbery allowed. Even if the closest thing you have to a yard is a plant on your windowsill, there’s always room for these Lilliputian versions.

pink flamingo day

Happy Pink Flamingo Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 10 is the Banana Split Festival

June 10, 2016, marked the 22nd annual Banana Split Festival. Behind the scenes of this sweet celebration, a battle has raged for years between the citizens of two All-American towns.

Each year, the festivities honor Ernest Hazard of Wilmington, Ohio, who concocted the treat in 1907 to attract Wilmington College students to his establishment.

He halved a banana, added three scoops of ice cream, topped each with chocolate syrup, strawberry jam or pineapple bits, sprinkled ground nuts on top, covered it in whipped cream and added two cherries for good measure. He later brainstormed the name with a cousin.

banana split festival

Hazard’s Cafe, Wilmington OH

In June 1995, the people of Wilmington created the Banana Split Festival to honor Hazard’s invention. It’s been celebrated every year since.

But in August 2004, residents of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, announced that pharmacist David Strickler had originated the dessert at Tassel Pharmacy in 1904, three years before Hazard. The town instituted its own Great American Banana Split Celebration, pegged to the 100th anniversary.

The National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) certified Latrobe as the birthplace of the banana split. Food historian Michael Turback, author of The Banana Split Book, agreed, although he was unable to find any hard evidence such as newspaper clippings on which to base his decision.

banana split festival

Tassel Pharmacy, Latrobe PA

“Soda fountains were very competitive,” Turback explained of the opposing claims.  “They were always trying to outdo each other, to see who had the most elaborate sundaes.”

While Wilmington, Ohio, and Latrobe, Pennsylvania, continue to duke it out for dessert dominance, the real winners are banana split fans who have not one, but two events to celebrate their love for a whole lot of ice cream with a little bit of fruit.

Ohio’s festival features live music, pony rides, a petting zoo, a baseball tournament, a 5K run and a banana split eating competition (no hands allowed!). However, the featured attraction every year is a “make your own banana split” booth. Yum!

Happy Banana Split Festival!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Heimlich Maneuver Day

June 1st is Heimlich Maneuver Day. In 1974, the journal Emergency Medicine published Dr. Henry Heimlich’s invention of a method to combat choking that has saved countless lives.

heimlich maneuver day 1

At the time, a series of blows to the back was the treatment of choice. Thoracic surgeon Heimlich set out to find a better way. He realized that when choking, air is trapped in the lungs. When the diaphragm is elevated, the air is compressed and forced out along with the obstruction.

He anesthetized a beagle to the verge of unconsciousness, plugged its throat with a tube, then conducted experiments to find an easy way to get the dog to expel it. After succeeding, he reproduced the result with three other beagles.

Refined for use on humans, his technique entails standing behind the choking person, making a fist below the sternum but above the belly button and pulling it in and up to dislodge the blockage.

heimlich maneuver day

In 1976, the Heimlich maneuver became a secondary procedure to be used only if back blows were unsuccessful. In 1986, the American Heart Association (AHA) changed its guidelines, instituting the Heimlich maneuver as the only option for rescuers.

Although Heimlich is also a fierce proponent of using the procedure to rescue drowning victims, the AHA warns it can lead to vomiting, aspiration pneumonia and death.

But his most controversial theory is “malariatherapy,” the practice of infecting a patient with malaria to treat another ailment. Although he had no expertise in oncology, Heimlich was convinced it could treat cancer.

In 1987, after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) refused to supply him with infected blood, he went to Mexico City and convinced the Mexican National Cancer Institute (MNCI) to allow him to treat five patients with malariatherapy. Four of the patients died within a year. The project was abandoned with no follow-up studies.

In 1990, The New England Journal of Medicine published Heimlich’s letter proposing malariatherapy as a Lyme disease treatment. Before long, sufferers around the world began to ask for the treatment. But lack of supporting evidence and poor patient reviews spelled the end of the exercise.

Within a few years, he decided it could tackle AIDS. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), labeled the idea “quite dangerous and scientifically unsound.” But Heimlich was able to secure financing from Hollywood donors and set up a clinic in China.

In 1994, his Heimlich Institute paid four Chinese doctors between $5,000 and $10,000 per patient to inject at least eight HIV patients with malarial blood. At the 1996 International Conference on AIDS, he announced that in two Chinese patients, CD4 counts that decrease as HIV progresses to AIDS, had increased after malariatherapy and remained elevated two years later.

When experts reviewed the studies, they discovered that the test the Chinese doctors used to measure CD4 levels was notoriously unreliable, rendering the results useless. Heimlich pressed on but had a difficult time finding sponsors.

In 2005, Heimlich determined a re-branding was in order; reasoning that the word “malaria” might scare people off, he changed the name to immunotherapy. When speaking to a journalist, he refused to disclose the exact location of his latest clinical trial in Africa. Due to its ethically dubious practice of initially denying treatment for malaria, the study has been conducted without governmental permission.

The same year, the AHA did a little de-branding: its guidelines no longer refer to the Heimlich maneuver by name. It is now simply called an “abdominal thrust.” Since 2001, an anonymous campaign has sought to label Heimlich a fraud and expose alleged human rights abuses in connection with his experimentation on unwilling participants. Heimlich’s accuser was his son Peter.

On Monday, May 23, 2016, the 96-year-old performed his maneuver on 80-year-old Patty Ris, a fellow resident at Deupree House, a senior living community in Cincinnati, Ohio. He told a reporter it was the first time he’d used his invention to save a life. (In 2003, he told BBC Online News that he’d saved someone at a restaurant three years earlier.) Heimlich died on December 17, 2016, after suffering a heart attack.

While Dr. Henry Heimlich may have been a complicated individual, there’s no denying that he created a life-saving procedure. He didn’t do it alone, according to Dr. Edward Patrick, an emergency room physician who said he helped develop it before Heimlich took sole credit and slapped his name on it. Even Peter doesn’t believe Patrick’s story, but we have to admit it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s false.

Happy Heimlich Maneuver Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays


May 27 is National Grape Popsicle Day

grape popsicle dayToday is National Grape Popsicle Day. In 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson was sitting on his porch, stirring powdered drink mix into water, when he was called inside and forgot to bring the cup with him.

His hometown of San Francisco, CA, was hit with record low temperatures that night. When Epperson ventured outside the next morning, he discovered that the drink had frozen to the stick, creating a tasty ice pop.

In 1923, Epperson began to sell the treat he called “a frozen drink on a stick” at Neptune Beach Amusement Park in Alameda, CA. Children loved them and parents were happy that the stick helped prevent messes and gooey hands.

In 1924, Epperson applied for and was granted a patent for the frozen confectionery, which he called the “Epsicle.” His children called it “Pop’s sicle, ” which inspired him to change the name to “Popsicle.”

Not long afterward, Epperson sold the patent to pay debts and regretfully missed out on the financial success of his creation. “I was flat and had to liquidate all my assets,” he later said. “I haven’t been the same since.”

We’re not sure why this holiday occurs on May 27th, a date that doesn’t correspond to Epperson’s birthday or the day the patent was filed or granted. Nor can we explain today is devoted to the grape variety alone. (Of more than two billion Popsicles sold each year, cherry is the most popular flavor.) We did uncover an interesting fact:

Do you remember the Popsicle with two sticks? It was introduced during the Great Depression so two children could split it for 5¢, the same price as a single stick. It was discontinued in 1987 because parents complained it was hard to break and too messy for one child to eat without dripping.

All this time, we’ve been thinking it was just out of stock….

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays