Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Straw men come on strong

You won't see a blackbird when Flower & Farm Fest tries to build largest display of scarecrows in the world

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Scarecrows surround Julie Weinel (left) and Maeve Schulz of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society.
(AP photo)
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If scarecrows really do keep crows away, the blackbirds will be taking the long way around Coney Island the next couple of weeks.

The Cincinnati Horticultural Society hopes to have 4,000 of the straw-brained characters on hand for the Cincinnati Flower & Farm Fest on Saturday and Sunday and Oct. 11-12. That would be the world's largest display of scarecrows, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Volunteers all over Greater Cincinnati are helping make it happen. Among the creations: a snowman scarecrow, a buxom Dolly Parton scarecrow, a slew of scarecrows dressed up for a Halloween costume party, a M*A*S*H scarecrow unit and Bill and Hillary Clinton scarecrows.

The idea has been simmering at the horticultural society for several years, ever since the Alleen Co. created a Farm Fest display that featured a scarecrow groom on bended knee proposing to a scarecrow bride.

"People really loved it," says Mary Margaret Rochford, director of shows for the horticultural society. "People would say, 'Are you going to do the scarecrows again?' "

This is the year. And while they're at it, the horticultural folks figured they might as well go for a record. It's now held by the Canadian village of Avonmore, Ontario, which displayed 3,079 scarecrows Oct. 12, 2002.

Cincinnati, it turns out, might have some competition as it seeks scarecrow supremacy. Another Ontario community, Meaford, has plans for a "Scarecrow Invasion" this Friday. Officials there are also hoping to display 4,000 scarecrows.

The local effort began early this month when Scarecrow Schools, open to anyone, began appearing around town. The horticultural society provided materials, including wooden frames for scarecrow bodies and buttons and markers for making faces. Trauth Dairy supplied 3,000 empty one-gallon milk jugs, to be used as heads. Discarded clothing came from thrift stores. The Enquirer and Post donated newspapers, for use as stuffing.

Then, it was simply a matter of letting people put their creativity to work.

"When people find out we're trying to break the Guinness record, they really want to get involved," says Julie Weinel, the horticultural society's exhibits manager.

Right. Which is why the horticultural society has been able to recruit other groups to help.

About 30 people pitched in at Batavia's LBD Friendship Center, one of nine centers operated by Clermont Senior Services. Among their creations was the previously mentioned Dolly Parton scarecrow, a freckle-faced Freda scarecrow, and a bride and groom.

For the latter, "one of my seniors actually gave up one of his beautiful black suits with a vest," says Ginny Kaldmo, the center's activity director. "That groom really looks sharp."

The center produced 60 scarecrows, which might seem like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the goal of the three schools and four adult workshops operated by the Hamilton County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

"We're shooting for 1,000," says Rhonda Kuhlmann, a workshop specialist.

Kuhlmann said the project, which is voluntary, will help raise community awareness of people with disabilities. It's a plug for their creativity, too. Creations include Mardi Gras-themed scarecrows, animal-motif scarecrows, scarecrows designed to resemble MRDD staff members, and plenty of traditional scarecrows. They'll continue making them until Oct. 10. The official count for Guinness will be Oct. 12.

Folks at the horticultural society have made their share of scarecrows, too. Special displays will include a Halloween party, with all scarecrows in costume. Among Weinel's creations: a scarecrow inspired by Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream."

"That's Screamcrow," she says.

It's enough to give a crow the creeps, although, "These are friendly scarecrows," Rochford says. "As a matter of fact, we're making a couple of hundred crows as well."

Dress up a scarecrow

The Cincinnati Horticultural Society will hold Scarecrow Schools 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, Wednesday and Thursday on Fountain Square. It's free, and everything you need to make scarecrows will be provided. Extra material will be welcomed: spare buttons, yarn, fabric scraps, broken sunglasses, old hats and purses and the like.

Or, you can make a life-size scarecrow at home and bring it to Coney Island between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday.Scarecrow hot line: 872-5195. Submission forms are at www.cincyflowershow.com

If you go

What: Cincinnati Flower & Farm Fest, presented by Cinergy Foundation and produced by the Cincinnati Horticultural Society.

When: Noon-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Oct. 11-12.

Where: Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., Anderson Township.

Activities: Culinary and gardening demonstrations, folk music performances, harvest and plant markets, fiber arts displays and demonstrations, a children's trick-or-treat trail, farm animals, scarecrow displays and more.

Admission: Adults, $8; ages 12 and under, $5 (includes rides). Advance adult discounts at Kroger stores. Parking, $5.

Scarecrow auction: During the event, some of the best scarecrows will be up for grabs in a silent-bid auction. Proceeds benefit Shriners Burn Institute.

Scarecrow Hoedown: 6 p.m. Friday at Coney Island's Moonlite Pavilion. A show preview, including dinner, music, fashion show. $40.

Information: 872-5194 or www.cincyflowershow.com


E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com

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