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Scarecrows on the move with growing St. Charles festival

Scarecrows all shapes sizes make annual Scarecrow Festival St. Charles one most popular fests area. | Sun-Times MediFile

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

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Updated: October 4, 2012 6:49PM

ST. CHARLES — Scarecrows normally roam downtown areas only in monster movies.

This weekend, though, some of the scarecrow contest entries at the annual Scarecrow Fest at Lincoln Park will be moving to new homes near First Street and the Riverwalk.

Festival activities are planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout downtown.

“Our attendance at the festival has exploded, from 60,000 five years ago to 150,000 last year,” explained Amy Egolf, executive director of the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, which organizes the festival.

“While that’s wonderful, it was starting to lead to frustrations and safety hazards because so many people were trying to see all the scarecrows in Lincoln Park. They were lined up five or six deep trying to get glimpses of the entries.

“The people who enter this contest put their hearts and souls into it, and they deserve to have their entries get visitors’ full attention.”

Scarecrows entered in the mechanical, traditional and children’s categories will stay at Lincoln Park, while scarecrows in the whimsical and family categories will be displayed on First Street near the Fun on First family activities center. Scarecrows created by local businesses will line the Riverwalk.

People will be able to vote for their favorites in all six categories at each location, Egolf said.

Dog lovers also will find a lot more to share with their four-legged friends at this year’s festival. The three-year-old Canine Corner will host yoga classes for dogs at 10 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, followed by other favorite activities like the dog fashion show and the wiener dog races on Saturday. Sunday will introduce the first ever Doggie Olympics trick competition, sponsored by the Dog Scouts of America.

“I didn’t realize how many festival visitors are traveling with their dogs until Canine Corner opened,” Egolf said. “The first year, I turned the corner from First Street onto Main at ZaZa’s and saw a sea of humanity running down the street. When I asked someone what was happening, she said, ‘The wiener dog races are starting!’ That’s when I realized we had a hit on our hands.”

Other new attractions this year include stagecoach rides around the far-flung festival venues for $5 per person, and a performance by Wedding Banned at 7:15 p.m. Friday on the Lincoln Park stage in which the musicians choose audience members to help re-enact an interactive wedding reception.

Scarecrow Fest also has gained a “sister festival” in Hampshire, England, Egolf said. A Hampshire resident who once lived in Lombard put organizers of Hampshire’s annual Pumpkin and Scarecrow Festival in touch with St. Charles festival planners, she said. As a result, Hampshire will make and display an American-themed “Charlie” scarecrow, while visitors bureau staff have reciprocated by building a British-themed scarecrow to display this weekend.

Scarecrow Fest could see even more visitors this year after NBC’s Today Show recently named it one of the five best fall festivals in the U.S.

“That was an incredible thrill for us, and we hope it will help the festival continue to grow,” Egolf said.

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