Although I was not sure what I was going to do in front of my own house, I had purchased the kit again this year for my scarecrow participation. With the horrors of the world stage playing out on the news, I welcomed the escape of participating in the Scarecrow Invasion along with many neighbors.
Doubling down on my need to find something positive, I volunteered to celebrate Kiwanis 100 and, with the help of Pinterest, I purchased three full-sized hay bales. Those bales were future Minions, traveling in the back seat of my car for weeks in order to prevent them from getting rain-soaked before they were safely placed on display. The strong farm smell of hay filled my car and the bales leaked bits of hay glitter on everything that entered.
I was taken off guard at the Kiwanis Dinner, the eve of the first day of the Scarecrow Invasion, when a guest asked for tips on putting up her scarecrow; my memory accessed the file under “More difficult than I expected.”
The guest was asking about the stick-and-burlap-head kit that was provided by the Arts Alliance and Historical Society. Although the display was to go up on Oct. 1, my procrastination was in full force and I hadn’t decided what to do beyond the hay-bale Minions. I did remember there were some hard-learned lessons that I could share and came up with an answer.
Now in its third year, the Arts Alliance and Historical Society have inspired many brave Forest Parkers to find their own rays of humor to keep us all in touch with the brighter side of humanity.
My display has finally sprung up, although a tad late, and with the fresh memories of the build, I thought this would be the place to record the adventure and share the tips for prosperity. First, there are hours of inspiration available on the internet as scarecrow season has produced very clever displays across the country. Plus neighbors in Forest Park have proven to be simply ingenious.
My inspiration this year was from Roald Dahl’s The Witches, the first suspenseful book I remember reading, filled with irony and lessons of determination and acceptance.
While it is optional to use the burlap head provided, the first step is to decide if you are sewing hair on the head. If so, do that first; if not, go straight to painting the face or drawing it with a permanent marker. If you have planned in advance, your face was painted days before you are building the scarecrow.
Otherwise, you are on team Jill and pencil in the outline only to discover there is no white paint in the kit provided. Rummage through craft supplies and old house paint to find some white paint and get busy painting the face. Then set out to dry near a fan as you go to the next step.
Driving the stick in the ground may seem like a breeze until you are actually doing it. Finding something to use as a stake or garden post to make a starter hole will really help, especially if the soil is dry. Luckily this year the rain has been plentiful and the ground was easy to work with.
This next step is extremely important, and might be the most valuable lesson I could share: If your scarecrow is wearing pants, place one pant leg before hammering the main stick provided in the ground.
Once your stick is in the ground, you are in great shape, and everything is going to come together soon. Simply dress the stick. Using rope you can pull the pants up and have them hang on the cross bar, or stuff them later. Wrestle a dress or shirt on the crossbar and start to see your creation take shape. This is the rewarding part. If you have chosen to stuff your creation, now is the time to fill it up.
Once the body is on the stick, the big moment of placing the head on the stick has arrived. Insert the plastic bag in the head and place it on the top bar. I always need to rip the sewn seams a bit around the neck to make it fit just right. Then I stuff the head with newspaper, crinkling one sheet at a time and building up the shape of the face.
Once stuffed, the wig can be put on using a staple gun, safety pins or hot glue (or combination of these). If your characters are bald, pat yourself on the back for choosing a theme that is a little easier.
Finally, adorn the scarecrows with embellishments — a scarf to hide the neckline, a dramatic earring, some gloves stuffed with sticks from the yard.
Next up is admiring the brilliant creations around town and voting for the displays. Barbie, the Great Pumkin, Van Gogh, Beaker, and Dr. Bunson, “It’s Just a Flesh Wound,” Harry Caray with Budweiser can, Coach Ditka, and the classic scarecrow designed and painted by 3-year-old Hugo are just some of the displays that have made me smile.
Kudos to those who have made us all laugh a little bit, a difference we all appreciate. This weekend the bike tour will take place; meet up at the Community Center parking lot at noon, bring a donation for the food pantry if you can, and cruise around with nice people to see the invasion up close.