It's summertime, and who really wants to read about serious issues when there's fun to be had? Even those of us in the news business tire of reporting serious news in the dog days of summer, so distractions are always welcome at this time of year. Fortunately in Meaford there is plenty to distract us when we want a break from the news, including the upcoming Scarecrow Invasion & Family Festival, for which organizers and volunteers are busy preparing.
If you're looking for a distraction, consider stopping by the Rotary Harbour Pavilion next week to help finish the building of this year's scarecrows. Volunteers will gather at the pavilion on Wednesday, August 16 at 6:30 p.m., and two morning sessions will be held at 9 a.m. on Thursday, August 17 and Wednesday, August 23.
Over the past eight years, I have covered several scarecrow building sessions, and I've noticed that there never seems to be any shortage of smiles or laughter at the sessions. And if you've never attended a building session before, I will share a little secret – the fun stuff happens in August. Building sessions held earlier in the summer involve a lot of stuffing of newspapers into plastic bags in order to create the 500 arms, 500 legs, and 250 heads required for the 250 scarecrows built and displayed each year. While the early summer scarecrow building sessions are fun, in August volunteers put all the pieces together and then dress the scarecrows – and this year there will be plenty of red and white as the Scarecrow Invasion celebrates Canada's 150th birthday.
In recent years Meaford's annual Scarecrow Invasion has been receiving notice and accolades outside of this community. From awards for volunteerism, to earning a spot on the list of top festivals in the province, the Scarecrow Invasion has impressed many, and perhaps most impressive is that the event is driven by volunteers from start to finish.
“It is an honour to have our community event ranked among prestigious festivals and events such as Doors Open Ontario, the Stratford Festival, the Canada Day Celebrations in Ottawa, and Collingwood’s Elvis Festival, to name just a few of the great tourist attractions across Ontario,” said Marilyn Morris earlier this year, after the event earned a spot on the Festival and Events Ontario list for the fourth straight year. Morris is the 'Head Scarecrow' of the Meaford Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival. “Top honours go to our dedicated volunteers, both present and those who shaped the invasion over the past 20 years. We are so grateful to our sponsors and media partners who helped us grow and draw visitors from far afield. The 20th anniversary celebration of the invasion and festival last year was a particularly proud moment for the Municipality of Meaford. What started as a simple display of scarecrows in the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in 1996 has evolved into an award-winning event.”
That the Scarecrow Invasion & Family Festival has been built on the hard work of volunteers – our friends and neighbours – perhaps makes the event particularly special in this community; after all, so many of us have had a hand in it in one way or another over the years. Prior to moving to Meaford 12 years ago I had never heard of the Scarecrow Invasion, but these days I hear from people far and wide either asking for information about the festival, or to share their experiences at the event. And it has certainly become important to the municipality. After all, in what other community, when there's talk at council of Hydro One purchasing a small piece of property from the municipality, would one of the first questions from a member of council be about whether the sale would impact scarecrow displays in September? In what other community would municipal staff make a point of assuring council that a bridge rehabilitation project would be finished in time to resume normal traffic flow in time for this year's Scarecrow Invasion?
Last year Meaford's Scarecrow Invasion & Family Festival celebrated 20 years since the event was born, and this year organizers seem as energized as ever to continue putting together one of the more unique festivals in the province – there's no resting on past laurels for the Scarecrow folks.
So if you're suffering through the dog days of summer, and you're looking to escape the often crazy (and scary) news cycles, consider joining the hundreds of others who have over the years volunteered to build some scarecrows – you might meet some new friends (and some old friends), and have a few laughs in the process. Then in September you can try and spot the scarecrows you helped build, in the community you've helped build.