Excitement is starting to build on the North Coast, as special soft sculptures are being installed along downtown streets in Cambria and San Simeon.
It’s the 2018 Scarecrow Festival, expected to include “well over 400 scarecrows this year,” according to Dennis Frahmann, a fest spokesman and former president of the festival board.
It’s the 10th such display on the North Coast. In 2009, the fledgling fest included 30 soft sculptures in Cambria, and yes, a lot of them looked like scarecrows.
The event’s popularity has grown exponentially since then, and word spread far and wide. The town’s streets are often packed with sightseers and scarecrow spotters throughout the month of October, and people taking photos and interacting with the scarecrows occupy a lot of Cambria’s limited sidewalk space.
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More recent creations have run a wild gamut of human and other creatures, from dragons and drag queens to cartoon characters and chefs, singing nuns, wizards and magicians, oddballs, animals, bizarrely witchy types and, yes, scarecrows.
Frahmann said this year, there’s “more emphasis on creating some large group displays.”
Festival Board President Paulla Ufferheide said one such display will include “a mega cake, maybe 5 feet across and 4 feet tall, surrounded by a bunch of party scarecrows,” on the empty lot between Once Upon a Tyme and the Old Cambria Marketplace (Shell Station).
A “whole tribe of cave-people scarecrows” is supposed to take up residence along Cambria Drive, Frahmann said. And, “if things go well, there’s also supposed to be a giant dinosaur made out of cornstalks.”
Ufferheide said the T-Rex and his groupies have been dubbed “1,000 B.C. Scarecrows.”
The Cambria Historical Society took a different tack this year, Frahmann said, having “researched how different scarecrows were built through the decades,” and then replicated some of them.
He said there are to be “some interesting new displays with different techniques.” For instance, a whole set of scarecrows will have bodies topped by a variety of giant masks rather than the more traditional paper mache heads.
Ufferheide said the masks were created by volunteers in a special workshop, and the bodies have armatures that allow the arms and shoulders to move. “Fabulous fabric will flow in the wind,” she said, with the entire display set up in front of the Old Cambria Grammar School/Allied Arts building. “It’s one of the most creative things you’ll ever see, and just so much fun.”
Frahmann said the 2018 focus was “trying to build better and more interesting scarecrows.”
Scarecrows owned by the festival committee were installed Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 26 and 27, he said, with owners, designers, creators and displayers to have the others up and ready for viewing by the weekend.
Tuesday, Oct. 2, was scarecrow-judging day, with selections being made by David Middlecamp, longtime photographer at The Tribune; Brooke Martell, AM anchor of KSBY News; and Yvonne Cavanagh of Bakersfield, an artist, ceramics instructor and former art-gallery owner.
Winners won’t be announced until Saturday, Oct. 20, during a joint Scarecrow Festival-Lions Club Oktoberfest on the Pinedorado grounds next to the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.
That party replaces a previous kickoff party held in years past on the last Thursday in September.
“This year, we took a different approach to fundraising,” Frahmann said, rather than holding the kickoff event. “We held a dozen small ticketed events all summer,” ranging from a pottery class and art classes to wine tastings, a scavenger hunt and others.
Ufferheide said the change had been very successful. “Actually, we made more money,” she said, “and it was a lot less stress.”