Skip Navigation

Fill the Hill celebrates UW–Madison’s 175th anniversary with salute to the original Pail and Shovel Party pranksters

As the University of Wisconsin–Madison celebrates is 175th anniversary, it is only fitting to look back at a moment that transformed not only the university but also the city of Madison.

As the 1979–80 school year was about to begin, members of the now-famous Pail and Shovel Party came up with an idea: to welcome incoming students (and give them a preview of the silly side of college life) with a sea of pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill.

Pail and Shovel president Jim Mallon ’79 and party member Stu Baker ’80 recently shared the story of how that absurd idea led to an iconic moment that is recreated every year with the Fill the Hill event, sponsored by the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA).

Fill the Hill is a day-of-giving initiative during the fall. For each gift given during Fill the Hill, WFAA places a flamingo on Bascom Hill, representing how private support helps UW–Madison maintain its excellence in education by supporting the university’s most immediate needs. More than 100 areas of campus are participating in Fill the Hill this year. UW alumni and friends are encouraged to give to any and all funds they are passionate about.

Over the past 11 years of Fill the Hill, about 15,000 gifts have been made, raising more than $2,400,000. For gifts of $350 or more, donors will receive a commemorative plastic flamingo of their own. That figure — $175 times two — honors the UW’s 175th anniversary by celebrating each of its first 175 years and supporting the next 175.

For more information, please visit:

Related News and Stories

Read all stories from WAA.