Scarecrow Fest brings out the artist in everyone
By Denise Linke For Sun-Times Media October 9, 2013 10:38AM
Scarecrows of all shapes and sizes make the annual Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles one of the most on popular fests in the area. | Sun-Times Media File
The 28th annual Scarecrow Fest will take place Friday through Sunday on the west side of the Fox River in St. Charles.
Five of the six scarecrow areas will be located in Lincoln Park, located just north of Main Street/Route 64, between Fourth and Fifth streets. A sixth area, featuring displays created to promote businesses from greater St. Charles, will be displayed at the city’s newest parking lot on the former site of the VFW, located just west of Third Street between Cedar and State.
While Lincoln Park will boast the main stage for free entertainment, three new entertainment areas will be located on First Street between Main and Illinois; near the Municipal Center, located on Main and Riverside; and along the Riverwalk that borders the river’s east bank.
There will be remote parking lots available at Charlestowne Mall, Lot H, and Illinois and Seventh streets with shuttle buses running to the fest grounds.
Along with the scarecrows, the event will include music, a carnival, food, crafts and more.
Updated: November 11, 2013 12:03PM
ST. CHARLES — For 22 years, Ted Eynik’s mechanized Halloween tableaus have delighted Scarecrow Fest visitors, not to mention winning or placing in nearly all the festival’s scarecrow contests since his first entry in 1991.
At this year’s festival this weekend, the “mechanics magician” will reveal his secrets to aspiring animated scarecrow builders in his own tent at Lincoln Park, amid most of the 100-plus contest entries.
Though an injured hand prevented Eynik from building a scarecrow this year, he’ll display sections of his previous years’ award winners so that other scarecrow designers can see how he made them move.
“I hope seeing what I did will get people thinking about how they can make their own mechanical scarecrows,” he said.
Eynik has loved building things since he was a child. A ham radio operator, he has built many of his radios from scratch. He was the neighborhood go-to guy for go-karts when his three children were growing up, and he has experimented with designing and building ultralight aircraft.
“I’ve been making things forever,” he said. “It’s always fascinated me how things go together and how one part acts on another to make it do something.”
His work as a maintenance mechanic at printing company R.R. Donnelly often gives him ideas for enhancing his scarecrow scenes.
“I also collect electronic recyclables and take usable parts from them,” he adds.
Each spring, Eynik starts brainstorming with family and friends about what to build for Scarecrow Fest.
“My three kids and two grandkids help a lot, but mostly my ideas come from my wife, Christine,” he said. “When we’ve picked an idea, I start thinking about how to put it together and what little things I can add around the edges.”
It usually takes about two months to put together a mechanized entry, though Eynik said he has done it in as little as two weeks.
Eynik said he enjoyed designing and building last year’s first-prize winner, titled “Herman Munster Has a Toothache.” But his two favorite tableaus are 2007’s “Born to be Wild,” which involved a wolf couple riding motorcycles, and “Noah’s Ark,” which won the mechanized division in 2010.
He and his family enjoy mingling with the crowds and listening to their comments about his entries.
“The Noah’s Ark one got a lot of laughs,” he recalled. “I couldn’t fit two of each animal into the 8-foot by 8-foot maximum space, but I did put two skunks in a rowboat that was tied to the ark, because where else would the other animals want the skunks to be? My wife thought up that idea, of course.”
Eynik hopes to offer some general advice as well as technical tips to aspiring mechanical scarecrow builders at the festival.
“Start small, then make your project bigger each year,” he said. “Make sure you start building it early, because it can take forever. Some days, when something’s not working and you get really frustrated, you just have to walk away from it for a few days. People have to enjoy this to do it, because it can get really frustrating at times.”
In a new twist this year, solar path lights will illuminate the scarecrow contest entries. Visitors will be able to build their own scarecrows at two locations: the Municipal Center parking lot and the First Street Kids Zone at First and Main streets. This year, festival officials will not ask for donations at the scarecrow building areas.