It’s that time of year again when all the scarecrows come and congregate in Stevensville. This year they will not only be lining the bike path leading into town, they will be hanging out in front of businesses, with a major gathering planned on the lawn at the Stevensville Hotel.
The fourteenth annual Stevensville Scarecrow Festival is scheduled to take place on Friday, October 4th and Saturday, October 5th. When the scarecrows come to town a lot of people can’t help but think of the guy, now deceased, who started it all, Gary Knapp.
His wife Loey, who is working closely with Gretchen Spiess this year to put on the annual event, recalled how it all got started. She said they had only lived in Stevensville for a year and Gary came home one day and said he knew what Stevensville needed. He had seen something like it in his travels and decided that Stevensville needed a Scarecrow Festival.
“He pretty much put on the first two Stevensville Scarecrow Festivals single handedly,” said Knapp. Anyone who saw it remembers Gary’s “Golden Man” scarecrow. For Gary, making scarecrows was a work of art. His creativity was inspiring, and the thing caught on. The Stevensville Art and Sculpture Society soon took up the cause and sponsored the event until the organization fizzled and the baton was passed to the Stevensville Main Street Association.
“The first year there were only eight entries,” said Knapp. “Last year there were forty-four.”
According to Knapp and Spiess, some significant changes are in store for this year’s scarecrow contest. The contest is being split into three categories that will be displayed in three different areas of town with each category getting its own set of awards. Scarecrows sponsored by individuals and non-profits will line the bike path on the way into town. Entries sponsored by businesses will be displayed in front of Main Street businesses and a Kids category will occupy the lawn at the Stevensville Hotel.
Spiess said that “living statues” would also be making the rounds. There will be a Cookie Tent and a pumpkin decorating contest.
Public voting on the scarecrows ends on Saturday at 3 p.m. and awards will be announced at 5 p.m. The Oktober Fest Band will play music on 3rd Street in front of the hotel from 3 to 5 p.m. and Mud Slide Charlie will play from 5:30 to 8 p.m. A Brew Fest with ten kinds of beer, as well as wine and cider, will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. in the parking lot across the street from the hotel and adjacent to the bandstand.
The Scarecrow Festival is popular. It’s estimated that over 5000 attended last year’s event.
Spiess and Knapp said that they were trying to emphasize the more creative and artistic side of scarecrow making and de-emphasize the link to Halloween.
“We are pushing creativity,” said Knapp. “We are trying to get away from the ghoulish.”
As it states right on the entry form, “Scarecrows are to be non-political, and in good taste within the context of a public family-oriented event (please avoid depictions of blood, gore, death, etc.).”
“We want to see some creativity, some real works of art,” said Spiess, “not just blood, guts and gore.” She said a little girl who had recently experienced a trauma was scared to tears by some bloody exhibits last year.
“We want this to be kid-friendly,” said Spiess.
Entry forms will be accepted up until 5 p.m. on Monday, September 30. Scarecrows on the bike path will remain on display through October 12.