Reporter’s Notebook: Scaring up a great seasonal pursuit


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Given the origins of scarecrows — a human-like figure stuffed with straw and placed in a field to discourage foraging birds — it seems only fitting that they would be popping up throughout Genesee County.

The makeshift crop guards have been used worldwide by farmers, and their very existence represents agriculture’s ingenuity to survive. As time has gone by, scarecrows have become much more commonplace off the field as well — used as wall, door, window, front yard and standalone seasonal decor.

A recent visit to Cambria, Calif. was a reminder that these creations have definitely ventured off the farm and into the land of one’s imagination.

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A walk down the main street in Cambria, within California’s stunning Central Coast, held delightful surprises with an ongoing scarecrow contest. Displays were done as individual scarecrows, and group scarecrows, dancing, talking and walking scarecrows, celebrity scarecrows, young and old scarecrows, even a horse scarecrow and bicycling animal scarecrows.

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They were along the main drag, but also off the beaten path down side streets, around a quaint town museum, and at businesses and oceanside homes. Each one had a small attachment with a QR code for voting purposes.

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Think that scarecrows don’t add much to commerce? Tourists were overheard saying that they had intentionally driven to Cambria to see the displays. First the viewing, then lunch, perhaps? Or shopping the clothing and trinket stores. For certain, scarecrows and related decor add to commerce. They were cute, scary, funny, interactive, and most of all — easy entertainment for those wanting to go out for a stroll.

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Many of these events seem to be tied to Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday that began in Mexico and is now celebrated throughout the globe with colorful skulls, skeletons and the like.

Despite its foreboding title, Day of the Dead is actually a celebration of life and of death — honoring those who have died. The event traditionally has a festival atmosphere, conducted between Nov. 1 and 2, and represents a dedication to the memories of loved ones with offerings, family gatherings, and visits to their graves. (GO Art! is hosting a Day of the Dead event on Oct. 22.)

Back to the scarecrows, they were certainly noteworthy, and photo-worthy in California. And so are the local ones in downtown Batavia. From cows and witches to chefs and artists, these scarecrows were made by individuals, businesses, civic groups, and Robert Morris, Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate schools. 

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Batavia’s downtown area, represented as the Business Improvement District, has built a fine foundation for its scarecrow contest. There are 34 entries, and each one is on a pole of some type mostly on Main Street and a few side streets. Votes are being accepted online through Oct. 30.

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While individual contests are great to have within each community, how awesome might it be to create a Genesee County scarecrow display? What better way to honor and recognize the efforts and struggles of this county’s farmers to keep the foragers at bay? (In this context, foragers may also include bad weather, early frost, and questionable farm labor decisions.)

Perhaps each community would be responsible for its own contest, but it could be promoted as a countywide effort. Imagine the buzz. This would also, of course, afford local artists several opportunities to lend a hand with the display set-ups.

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This is nothing against the events of BID and Oakfield (Halloween decorating contest) — those are fun, festive happenings that absolutely add color, fun and intrigue to their areas. But sometimes, perhaps, we can also think more globally, and in this instance join forces and become a regional display of an agricultural symbol.

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To vote for the downtown scarecrows, go to BID’s Facebook page, Executive Director Shannon Maute said. 

Top Four Photos of a few of Cambria, California’s Scarecrow Contest entries; and partaking in the display fun. Photos by Joanne Beck, last one by Howard Owens. Remaining photos of entries for the downtown Batavia Scarecrow Contest. Photos by Howard Owens.



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