The Cambrian

The scarecrows are back in Cambria, as colorful and creative as ever

A new batch of Scarecrows have cropped up for the annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival.
A new batch of Scarecrows have cropped up for the annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Creativity has hit the streets of Cambria again for the annual, monthlong display of artistry called the Scarecrow Festival, in which, according to organizers, “whimsy runs rampant.”

The hand-sculptured artworks show up throughout October on the North Coast, along downtown Cambria streets and Moonstone Beach Drive, and in San Simeon and Harmony.

There’s no charge to see or study the scarecrows or to pose for selfies or other photos alongside them.

The crowds arrive

The scarecrow-viewing public was out in force doing just that and more Oct. 1, the sunny first official day of the ninth annual exhibit, although some of the ’crows had been installed earlier and people who knew that went by to check them out ahead of the official start.

Downtown parking spaces were scarce in Cambria over the weekend, and traffic was slower than the norm as drivers caught glimpses of the artistic creations being displayed in doorways and on sidewalks, roofs, fences, fields and elsewhere.

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A new batch of Scarecrows have cropped up for the annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

If previous years are any indicator, those traffic-and-parking conditions are apt to continue throughout the exhibition.

Participating artists appreciate the quirky venue for their creations. Many North Coast residents look forward to the smiles and giggles the scarecrow display triggers. And local entrepreneurs hope for additional sales or bookings at the inns during the festival in a month that used to be considered a “shoulder season” with a drop in business.

Many festival supporters display a “scarecrow friend” flag.

Gayle Jenkins has one at her A Matter of Taste store at 4120 Burton Drive.

Jenkins said the festival helps her bottom line every year.

“We see more people in town, more visitors, people who don’t generally get a chance to come up here.”

She said many of them plan their trips around “the Harvest Festival, the festival’s kickoff party, wine tasting and shopping,” especially as the visitors check off purchases on their Christmas gift lists.

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A new batch of Scarecrows have cropped up for the annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

“We make sure we’re pretty well stocked for fall shopping,” Jenkins said, because holiday shoppers are already out in force, and a wise businessperson is ready for them now, rather than waiting for Thanksgiving-time.

The 2017 Harvest Festival is on Saturday, and the ranch-and-farm tour is Monday. For details, go to www.cambriahistoricalsociety.com.

The festival

The Scarecrow Festival’s purpose, as described in its mission statement: “Through the creation and annual public display of scarecrows, the Cambria Scarecrow Festival Inc., provides a sustainable, inclusive, collaborative set of programs to encourage artistic creativity and visibility” to area communities and the many people who come to see the display.

According to www.cambriascarecrows.com, “Over the years, the festival has grown into one of the most unique festivals of hand-crafted folk art in the U.S., drawing thousands of visitors from across the country.”

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A new batch of Scarecrows have cropped up for the annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

This year’s North Coast scarecrow population, which numbers more than 400, includes a wild assortment of fictional and fairytale characters, mermaids and other mythic creatures, driftwood people, pedaling bicyclists, towering thrones, animated scarecrows and a large, bright blue dragon that occasionally exhales steam.

Each scarecrow reveals the impressive talent of North Coast residents who run the gamut from professional scarecrow builders and collaborators to first-timers and students.

Many of the scarecrows are about the size you’d expect a scarecrow to be. Others are about half that, and a few are substantially oversized.

Lots of the scarecrows are purely whimsical. Others hit a more serious note. Some are traditional, some are modern or other-worldly, and some are animated.

Some make you think, a few are a bit scary and many make you laugh. And that’s what the festival is all about: Smiling a lot, laughing out loud and having a great time on the North Coast.

Volunteers build the whimsical, kooky and eclectic scarecrows each year for the Cambria Scarecrow Festival, which runs throughout October in Cambria, Harmony and San Simeon. Here's a look at how the scarecrows are made.

Celebrating scarecrows

The best of the best 2017 Scarecrow Festival entries that were registered in the official competition will be announced at a “Salute to Scarecrows Gala Kickoff” party starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at Cambria Nursery & Florist garden, 2801 Eton Road, where there’s always a lavish scarecrow display.

Get tickets, $35, at http://bit.ly/2fF4t9t or at the door. Passed appetizers, wine by the glass, live music and a silent auction are included.

Those who judged the entries included: Joe Johnston, longtime photographer at The Tribune; Christina Favuzzi of KSBY; and Pam Roberts from SLOCAL (the Visit San Luis Obispo County organization).

Organizers expect about 400 scarecrows will be on display during the 2017 festival. However, some scarecrows simply show up, were not registered as entries and were therefore not eligible to compete.

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