CHESHIRE — Autumn is already beginning to make an appearance in New England.
Whether it’s the Halloween decorations on sale at local stores, the seasonal drinks being offered at favorite coffee shops, or the occasional tinge of orange or yellow that can be seen on some leaves at the moment, we are reminded that, soon enough, shorts will be traded for sweaters and humid summer mornings will transform into chilly fall evenings.
And when autumn does arrive in full, be on the look out for scarecrows — a lot of them.
For the first time ever, the town will be hosting a Scarecrow Competition. The event, sponsored by the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce in addition to Artsplace, Parks and Recreation, and the Public Library, will encourage residents and local businesses to put their scarecrow-making abilities to the test over the next few weeks, with an eye towards displaying them at the beginning of October.
The idea is simple: Come up with a concept for a scarecrow, build it and put it out for all of Cheshire to see. The only rules are that the scarecrows must be at least four feet in size, but no bigger than 10 feet, and must be family-friendly.
As for political messages, Kim Wantroba, chair of the Scarecrow Competition Committee, hopes they are avoided as well.
“We want everyone to enjoy it. We want it to be the kind of activity that brings the community together,” she said.
The idea for the competition was first introduced by Yetta Augur, president of the Cheshire Chamber. While a member of the Madison Chamber of Commerce years ago, Augur participated in their scarecrow competition and fell in love with the idea.
“I thought, this is a nice way to get people outside, where people can safely social distance,” she said.
To Augur, this will be a wonderful chance for local businesses, many of which are struggling due to pandemic-related restrictions, to showcase what they have to the community while also having a lot of fun.
“For the businesses, this is a nice little way to market themselves. For nonprofits, it’s a really fun, easy way for them to get their name out there,” she said. “The only way we are going to get through this is together, and I really envision this being a great community-wide event.”
According to Wantroba, the goal for the Committee is to get a minimum of 50 participants to sign up for the competition, with registration open until Sept. 28. However, Wantroba hopes that the goal is reached and surpassed, and that the community embraces what she hopes is an activity that lasts well beyond 2020.
“We are going to be using the (Chapman property), Ball & Socket has agreed to allow us to use their property, and First Congregational Church is taking part,” said Wantroba. “Joan’s (Pilarzyck, director of Artsplace) dream is to have all of Route 10, and one side of West Main, all (taking part).”
With only a few rules in place, Wantroba hopes people will not only be encouraged to indulge their creative side, but also look for ways to make it a more collaborative effort. She suggested that civic groups could come up scarecrows that fit with their mission statement — perhaps garden clubs creating scarecrows out of flower pots — and that neighborhoods could perhaps agree to have every house on the street create their own.
“I think this will really be a chance for people to work cooperatively, while also being safe and socially distant,” said Wantroba.
All those participating will be asked to have their scarecrows outside and viewable by Oct. 4. From there, a member of the Committee will take photos of the entries and an evaluation process will begin, although as of last week Wantroba did not know exactly how they would judge the entries.
“We may look at the photos, (each member of the Committee) may go take a look at the scarecrows personally … we are not sure yet,” she admitted.
When all entries have been logged, the Scarecrow Competition Committee will devise a map, available to the public, that will pinpoint exactly where to find each scarecrow. Wantroba hopes that the experience for residents will be akin to searching out Christmas lights in December, with families piling into cars to see their neighbors’ creativity on display.
Those participating will be asked to keep their scarecrows up for the entire month of October, potentially through the first week of November. Winners will eventually be announced, and Wantroba stated that the number of winners will likely depend on how many entrants there are.
“There will be a picture of the winners with their scarecrow that will be framed, and we’ll present it to them,” she said.
Ultimately the organizers of the event believe that the Scarecrow Competition will help to fill the void left by the cancellation of the annual Fall Festival this year, as well as provide the community a safe way to have some seasonal fun. And Wantroba believes that this will be the first of what will quickly become a cherished autumn tradition in Cheshire.
“It’s a great thing for this moment in time, but I think it’s something that will last (past 2020) and become a tradition people really enjoy,” she said.
For all of the rules and regulations, and to register for the competition, visit www.cheshirechamber.