Most of Cambria’s scarecrows are down now, with many packed away for the next festival to be held in their honor throughout October 2013. Meanwhile, organizers are regrouping and rediscovering their normal lives, and the host town is recovering from a month-long influx of visitors.
A combination of predominantly spectacular fall weather for most of the month and lots of regional press about this year’s festival meant downtown Cambria was packed with people (and cars) most weekends in October, and busy, busy most other days, too.
At scarecrow central, the Cambria Historical Museum at Burton Drive and Center Street, crowds converged regularly to see approximately 20 scarecrows on display in the historic gardens of the Guthrie-Bianchini house.
Jack Breglio, president of the Cambria Historical Society, said when he and wife Jeannette Breglio were docents one Saturday in October, “we had 201 visitors inside the museum,” and attendance has been “exceptionally good for the entire month.” He estimated that normal attendance on a Saturday might be 30 to 50. And when the Breglios did docent duty Nov. 3, “the scarecrows were gone, and so were most of the people. It was very quiet.
During October, many scarecrow spotters drove slowly through town, pointing out favorites, taking pictures, looking for parking places — and confounding local drivers behind them who just wanted to get where they were going more quickly and safely than traffic was allowing.
Other visitors walked the route, which, according to organizers and those who helped fund the festival, was the idea — to get people out of their cars, walking around town, and (it was hoped) shopping and dining, maybe even spending the night during part of a season that’s traditionally slower than summertime.
A representative for the Bluebird Inn, which provided space for the Best in Show “Cycling Scarecrows” by Slabtown Rollers, said the festival “is a hit,” and had brought “loads of people into town.” While he didn’t have figures for the increase in room rentals during the month, business did increase, even producing “good days all through the week,” rather than just on weekends.
Eric Johnson, general manager/partner at Old Cambria Marketplace and Shell Station, said that despite an 80-cent-per-gallon temporary price hike for gas that hit in the beginning of October, “any Cambrian who drove Main Street would say traffic was up in town … Looking at the sheer number of people walking around town, taking pictures, it (the festival) has become its own entity and it’s good for Cambria.”
Alice Dietderich, co-owner of Seekers Glass Gallery, across from the museum, didn’t know for sure if the festival increased her sales, but she loves everything about the event, especially that it brings in county residents who don’t visit Cambria often.
Visitors “were all excited, having a good time, loving everything about our little town,” she said, adding that she hopes organizers can find funding for the trolley to run every weekend during the festival. “It adds to the atmosphere, eases traffic and gives people that small-town feeling that they don’t get at home.