Last Wednesday night while working at Offshore Ale, I noticed two men outside the door working on something. Curious of course, I had to investigate. It was two dads putting a scarecrow up. I had to laugh, watching them stuff a dress with hay, and position a carved pumpkin as the head. I laughed even harder since the scarecrow made me think of a pumpkin beer wench, serving The Great Pumpkin beer there is on tap.
These dads had a lot of fun putting together the scarecrow, and of course stopped in for a pint afterwards. They were putting up the Engler family’s scarecrow, Beautiful Betsy. Talking with them, I realized that I didn’t know much about these scarecrows that pop up around Halloween.
Each year, I look forward to seeing what scarecrows will show up in front of Island businesses. Some are scary, some are sweet, but none are short on creativity. I’m sure many of you know and I now know that they are part of a fundraiser for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.
For a donation of only 75-bucks (should be at least $100), you can have one of these handmade, masterpieces in front of your business. A pretty clever way to raise some money and make the towns more festive.
What’s called the Scarecrow Festival is now in its 13th year. You’ll find the MVPCS scarecrows in five of the six Island towns. There are 76 of these clever little creatures spread around, the largest amount to date. It seems as though each year it grows, more and more people want one to help celebrate the season. I think that they bring something special to our towns.
On Friday, I sat down with the Development Director, Paul Karasik, of the MVPCS to learn a little more about this fun, Vineyard tradition. How did such a great idea come about? Well, many moons ago, a teacher, Guinevere Natush (yes there is more than one Guinevere), came up with the idea. She had a vast costume collection, and wanted to put it to use. There were only 12 scarecrows that year, but it was success. More and more businesses have wanted to participate every year.
The Kids Don’t Make Them?
I had assumed that the kids made the scarecrows in school as part of some sort of art project, but that is not the case. They are made by volunteers, most of whom are the parents of kids (with their kids’ help I’m sure) who attend the school. I think that makes them even more special.
People have to come up with their own concept, make it, make sure it’s of sturdy construction, set it up at the location they get (chosen at random), and maintain them for the week or so the scarecrows are on display.
A fun, creative way to help support their school, definitely cooler than a bake sale. According to Paul, making a scarecrow has become a tradition for a lot of families. Some families plan throughout the year, and really work together to make a fantastic scarecrow.
So that people aren’t intimidated, there is a little “shop” at the MVPCS where you can build your scarecrow. There are also some props there, so to say. Paul spends a lot of time checking for things at the “Dumptique.” He doesn’t want people to be nervous about making one. He’s there to help. Also, the hay is donated by SBS. A nice gift indeed.
Since there are a wide range of scarecrows, the winners of the prizes are randomly selected. This way, a little kid has just as much of a chance to win as a professional adult artist. It’s also a great way to encourage people to participate.
What’s Your Favorite?
With the unpleasant visit of Hurricane Sandy, I was not able to see as many scarecrows as I would have liked. Most of them came down before the storm, and are probably being put back up as I write. However, I was lucky enough to check out a couple in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.
Vineyard Haven had some really great scarecrows, from the Lorax, the Dumbledore, to the Hunchback of Notre Dame (which has a sunflower for face), there was something for everyone. One of my favorites can be found in this town, Skippy Jon Jones, made by Julie and Ben Saunders, which is in front of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank. This one makes me smile. It also made my two-year old laugh. It’s light hearted and fun, and really well done. Could I accomplish this with a little straw, paint, and canvas, heck no? Kudos to them.
In Oak Bluffs, I found another favorite, Mortica, by Marsha Winsryg, in front of Conroy’s. Once again, what a clever, well crafted scarecrow. I can’t imagine the amount of thought and time that goes into making these Halloween treats.
Next time you see one of the scarecrows, take a minute longer to notice the details, and know that it was made with a lot of love for a great cause. If you would like one of the scarecrows for your business next year, give the MVPCS a call in early October. You never know what will show up at your door.
Perhaps you’d like to share your favorite scarecrow with us? Also, I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful Halloween. Happy tricks and yummy treats for us all.
Thank you Alistair Rizza for the One Fish, Two Fish photo, and thank you Whitney Burke for the photo of Corduroy!