Viewpoint

Making our scarecrows water-wise: A commitment to Cambria

June 6, 2014 

Back in 2009, the idea of displaying scarecrows in the month of October seemed a fun way to bring the town together and celebrate the great creative spirit in town. Little did anyone know how that idea would grow.

And, boy, did it grow! Last year, there were more than 400 scarecrows. About one in every 10 residents in town was actively involved — either by building a scarecrow, sponsoring one or helping us manage the displays. And because we saw so many smiling, happy faces around town, we hope nearly everyone in town was blessed with a smile or two by the whimsy that ran rampant.

Those of us on the board certainly know the unique joy the festival brings to residents of San Simeon and Cambria. One board member loves retelling how one high school student told her how proud she was to be part of a community that does something like the scarecrows. It’s great to see art students in our local schools so involved.

So many of our neighbors also mention how the festival has become a time for family get-togethers so everyone can scope out their favorite creation. And all us can recall visitors we met on the streets — whether day-trippers from nearby Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo, or tourists from as far away as Europe or Asia who chance upon our town as they drive down beautiful Highway 1. One and all, these folks marvel at the great pleasure they derive from visiting our town in October.

Still, it’s 2014; our state is suffering a severe drought; and our town faces a major water emergency. Many of you are asking us about our plans for this October. The board of the Cambria Scarecrow Festival, Inc. (which has officially become a nonprofit organization that covers the festival in both Cambria and San Simeon) takes your concerns very seriously.

The Scarecrow Festival board wants you to know that the festival will go on this fall, and that we have established a goal to host a responsible, water-wise festival. We thought now was a good time to share our thoughts, our plans and ask for your help. The festival has always been about what’s good for our towns, and we don’t want to do anything that imperils our mutual well-being.

We are committed to doing whatever we can to limiting water use and making the festival itself a sounding board for water conservation. After five years, we anticipate many previous delighted visitors would still return whether we promoted the event or not, but when they come, we want to raise their consciousness and to minimize this water impact.

Here are some of the things we plan on doing. This year, our theme will be on being water-wise and we will encourage a special scarecrow competition to help bring that message alive in a fun and creative way. We will create special water conservation messaging tools aimed at both day-trippers and overnight visitors, and work with both the lodging and the dining communities to get this message out. We will also bring in more porta-potties. We will look for every way, no matter how small, to be water-wise ourselves. For example, we will use non-potable water in our workshops and the papier-mâché classes.

We will also stay closely in touch with the Cambria Community Services District as well as the leaders of other town events like the Fourth of July and Pinedorado to stay on top of any changing conditions.

This covers only the highlights of our plan. We’d like to encourage both our volunteers and anyone interested in this topic to stay involved and continue to provide us with your input and thoughts. (You can sign up for our newsletter or volunteer by sending an email to info@cambria scarecrows.com.)

The Festival has always been about the creativity of our coastal communities. Together, we surely can be as effective in creating a water-wise celebration as we are in designing marvelous scarecrows.

The members of the Cambria Scarecrow Festival Board of Directors are Cindy Bitto, Dennis Frahmann, Taylor Hilden, Brooks Lawrence, Sue Robinson and Diana Teetzel.

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