Monday, September 15, 2014

The Wallingford Scarecrow Festival is Cheerful Fall Fun in CT

A scarecrow competitor -Can you
tell which is human and which is hay?
New England Fall Events traveled to our first Scarecrow Festival and what a gem we'd uncovered in Wallingford! 

This special New England festival was tucked away in a residential neighborhood and hosted on the grounds of the Zion Lutheran Church in Wallingford, CT. We don't see as many Scarecrow Festivals on the fall schedule as so this was circled on the calendar early in the season. 

This festival had plenty of parking situated between the front and the back lawns. The expansive front lawn was set up with plenty of make-and-take craft projects for a small fee--perfect for kids and adults alike. The activities were more thoughtful than your run-of-the-mill children’s crafts which reflected the care that the organizers had given to this special event. The crafts were optional and you could simply purchase tickets for the ones you wished to do—all very affordable. 

A very hopeful Red Sox "fan"
in the scarecrow competition
The main attraction of the festival is, of course, the scarecrow. The competition and the make-your-own scarecrow area are the top reasons to make a trip here--a good excuse for a fun road-trip. Never having made a scarecrow ourselves before (seriously!), we were thrilled to not only learn about how to make them but the scarecrow contest submissions on full display across the lawn also demonstrated just how creative and inspired a scarecrow could be. 

Delighted at the chance to make our own scarecrow to take home, we gladly forked over the $10 fee. Everything we could need to make a unique scarecrow was already there waiting for us.

We began by selecting a wooden cross made from 2x4s which were all stacked against a tree for our choosing. With different heights to the scarecrow base, you could opt to make a child-size scarecrow or something taller. Each cross had a gallon milk bottle inverted on the top wrapped with white fabric and fastened with twine. This milk bottles served the purpose of the scarecrow’s head. Having decided on a medium-sized scarecrow “body”, we set about creating the body.

Trying different clothes on our
scarecrow to help it come alive
The make-your-own scarecrow area had perhaps 6-8 giant piles of clothes—a pile of dresses, a pile of jeans, pants, sport coats, dresses, shirts, old Halloween costumes, etc. There was adult- and child-sized clothing which was handy to accommodate different types of scarecrows. There were also a few tables with boxes of ties, wigs, costume jewelry, hats, ribbons, and more. We were invited to scour all the piles and dig through boxes to find the right clothing to help us convey our scarecrow’s personality. There was no limit to the number of types of items you could choose to add to your “person”. There were one or two festival volunteers supervising this area and offered helpful guidance for those of us who’d never made a scarecrow before. 

Fastening the clothing and
accessories on the scarecrow.
Initially we debated whether we wanted to make a classic scarecrow—overalls and plaid shirt—but eventually, we settled on a “girl” with a long-sleeved undershirt, a plaid buttoned-up shirt, a pair of jeans, and a floppy orange hat. The volunteer showed us where to tie the undershirt on and she showed us how to begin stuffing the undershirt body and arms with hay. We repurposed a brown raffia hula skirt for the scarecrow’s hair and tied two pigtails with ribbons before fastening on the hat.
We had a blast making our own scarecrow and it was equally joyous watching the kids and their parents make their own creation come to life. With so many clothing and accessories available, there were limitless possibilities to make a very unique “person” to take home. 

Pile and piles of clothes, jewelry, masks,
and wigs to help create your scarecrow 
The competition submissions were on full display on the front lawn and festival attendees were encouraged to vote for their favorites. The scarecrows we saw were very creative and full of good humor and some recycled plastic pumpkins as heads while others took a more traditional approach. The Red Sox scarecrow "kneeling" with hopeful clasped hands gave everyone a good chuckle. 
We were very pleased with the scarecrow we made but it’s clear that we’ve got a long way to go before we reach competition caliber!

Also worth mentioning are the ongoing hayrides and giant craft vendor area on the back lawn of the property. There were many homemade crafts for sale from local vendors and a handful of food items such as jams, canned goods, and honey. 

There was a single food truck parked in front called Spuds to You which offered BBQ pulled pork, baked potato toppings, burgers and more. It's nice there was an on-sire lunch option but as we were there for about 90 minutes in the morning, we didn't stay long enough for lunch. 

A classic type scarecrow
featured in the competition.
This festival is truly worth your time. It's a not-too-crowded and genuinely fun family festival. There is plenty for kids to do, space to roam, and the front lawn is set off the road so it’s quite safe for kids. 
The crafts will keep your children busy and happy, and the hayride is a great diversion too. All the extras (hayride, crafts, make-your-own scarecrows) can be purchased a la carte and all “extras” were reasonably affordable. Apparently, there was an inflatable moonwalk, live music, and a puppet show but we must have been so absorbed in our scarecrow that we missed them. The festival takes place between 10am and 3pm and we attended in the morning. The property is stroller-friendly but you’ll be mostly on grass.

Hand carved foam pumpkin crafts
for sale at the festival.
We especially appreciated that the mission of this festival was a special fundraiser held by the Zion Lutheran Church where they stated "the net proceeds from this year’s Scarecrow Festival will be donated to Fisher House which builds housing near VA hospitals for our veterans. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful time - during the hospitalization for a combat injury, illness or disease." We couldn't think of a better purpose and thank them for their efforts to support our veterans and their families.

We had a blast at this special fall festival and we left feeling inspired to see a scarecrow festival come to our own community. Our sweet scarecrow girl graced our front lawn at the entrance to our driveway. She was a cheerful bright spot in our neighborhood and we confess we didn’t take her down until mid-winter because we enjoyed her so much. 

Here's our listing for this year’s festival.

Wallingford Scarecrow Festival Tips:
  • This super fun, festive, and creative attraction is totally free for you to enjoy but to partake in the crafts, hayride, inflatables, or scarecrow making, you’ll want to bring cash or a check. 
  • The ticket booth accepted cash and checks as well. 
  • Wear sunscreen and bug/tick repellant. The weather was gorgeous when we attended but aside from a few shady areas, most everything is under the direct sun.
  • There’s plenty of lawn for you to spread out. Consider bringing a blanket for the kids to spread out on to listen to the music or to have a “home base”.
  • The festival is stroller-friendly and everything takes place on grass.
  • The only bathrooms available are inside the church and they are available for your use. They were spotlessly clean, ADA Accessible, and there was a Koala-Kare changing table for the little ones. 
  • Free parking.

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