A Halloween Tradition That’s A Real Treat

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I’ve always loved fall and Halloween, but it’s an extra-special time in the New England hamlet we call home: on Halloween there’s mobs of goblins who trick-or-treat along our historic Main Street. Others trick-or-treat along neighborhood streets as friends greet each other, and everyone delights in seeing the kids’ costumes. Each October, we look forward to seeing pumpkins on porches, corn stalks on railings, and eating pumpkin ice cream at the local creamery before it closes for the season. There’s another very special tradition in our town that folks look forward to, happening each year around Halloween – it’s the                 Annual Scarecrow Project!

The creations are made by eighth graders at our local middle school. Each year, groups of three or four kids meet once after school, then design and submit plans for their scarecrow. They are then given a few weeks to take their designs from paper to larger-than-life creations that grace the front lawn of the school. Everyone looks forward to the week before Halloween, when the scarecrows go on display along the busy tree-lined street. An extracurricular activity, my daughter was thrilled to be an eighth grader this year because it meant she could finally participate after admiring the displays each year since she was small.

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There’s no gore, guts, or violence allowed, and ideas must be approved before the students go forward with their entries. The creations must be sturdy enough to “withstand the wrath of Mother Nature”. You never know what the kids will dream up – from classics like haunted houses or the Peanuts gang, to pop culture characters and everything in between. The town buzzes with excitement to see the scarecrows standing in the schoolyard.

A twist on classic monsters - these characters are taking a selfie!

A twist on classic monsters – these characters are taking a selfie!

Here's a VERY large LEGO man!

Here’s a VERY large LEGO man!

This scarecrow's a larger than life blast from the past!

This scarecrow’s a larger than life blast from the past! The figure in the back is a likeness of Kanye West.

This year’s creations didn’t disappoint – from Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat, to more modern references like “Monsters, Inc”., one thing they have in common is that they are all impressive!

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A spot- on "Monsters Inc"...

A spot-on “Monsters Inc”…

Don't ya just adore the face on this Cheshire cat?

Don’t ya just adore the face on this Cheshire cat?

And here's Alice...

And here’s Alice!

Originally the brainchild of former middle school teacher and current Board of Education member, John Vouros, this year marks the tradition’s eighteenth year. On average, close to one-hundred students choose to participate in the event. The single meeting is held at school in early September. The rest of the work is done independently with their group members off-site, until the Friday in October before Halloween when students and their families install the scarecrow on the school’s front lawn.

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This was made in honor of the Peanuts' 65th anniversary.

This was made in honor of the Peanuts’ 65th anniversary.

My daughter’s group created a rendition of the Headless Horseman, complete with battery-operated lights that glow when it gets dark. For several weeks the kids got together to work on the project; seeing their dedication and design come to life made us parents so proud.

Around eight feet tall, the kids had to go back to the drawing board several times to bring their vision of the horseman in silhouette of the moon to life.

Around eight feet tall, the kids had to go back to the drawing board several times to bring their vision of the horseman in silhouette of the moon to life.

Each creation is assigned a number. Visitors to the display can vote for their favorite scarecrow for $1.00 a vote. Kids who participate in the event must volunteer time manning the voting table (along with a few parent chaperones). It’s nice to see the kids working together, admiring and complimenting each others’ work. The money collected is used as prize money, presented to the winning team’s charity of choice. Last year, over $1100 was raised and given to charity, with this year’s numbers projected to be about the same. Usually, the students choose local charities like the local food bank, but often charities on a national level are selected, as well. The whole event fosters a true sense of community.

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Here's a beautiful Queen of Hearts...

Here’s a beautiful Queen of Hearts…

Here's a Lorax Dr. Seuss would be so proud of!

and a Lorax that would make Dr. Seuss himself proud!

Better watch the weather...

Better watch the weather!

Photo Courtesy Leigh Ann Coles

M&M’s, anyone? Photo Courtesy Leigh Ann Coles

The vision, creativity and genius use of materials for all of the scarecrows is really inspiring. It’s recommended that students stick to a budget of no more than $25 total for supplies.

A re-purposed dollhouse becomes a haunted home...

A re-purposed dollhouse becomes a haunted home.

A rainbow fish with foil 'scales' and a tarp for water.

A rainbow fish uses plates as scales and a tarp for water, while Tigger stands in the background.

Wal-E looks like he walked right off the movie set.

Wal-E looks like he walked right off the movie set!

 

Photo Courtesy Leigh Ann Coles

Photo Courtesy Leigh Ann Coles

Some scarecrows are more like "scenes", like this pop-up book. Photo courtesy Leigh Ann Coles

Some scarecrows are more like “scenes”, like this pop-up book. Photo courtesy Leigh Ann Coles

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For the contestants, there’s a lot of work involved, but it’s so worth it. Students master skills needed to work with a group, use their imagination and dedication to see a project evolve from start to finish, manage time, and be responsible to meet deadlines. Most of all, it is a fun activity that benefits a good cause while bringing people together.

The smiles of visitors to the display are contagious, and the hard work that all of the kids who participate in the contest is illustrated in each and every entry. It’s a tradition everyone from town looks forward to. It really doesn’t matter who “wins” – they are all winners!

Aren’t these eighth-graders creations really something? Give a shout out to them in the comments, below!

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 18 Comments

  1. Barb P says:

    Young minds can come up with the most amazing ideas. The teamwork, sharing, cooperation, and hard work that obviously went into this project proves to me there is hope for the future. Thank you, eighth graders – WELL DONE! P.S. I can’t pick a favorite – I love all of them!

  2. Krista says:

    WOOT! WOOT! Go 8th graders!
    This story put a huge smile on my face. I wish every town had this kind of spirit. The work that these 8th graders do is unbelievable. If I didn’t live so far away I would come and see these scarecrows every year. This project also helps implement so many important values for them. I wish there had been something like this that I could have participated in while I was growing up. Thank you for sharing this amazing story! Definitely puts me in the Halloween spirit! I would like to be updated as to which scarecrow wins and which charity they donate the money to.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Krista! Thanks…I am so glad you enjoyed this post. I know I didn’t have anything like this growing up, either. I know I would’ve had fun participating. We were so excited to have an eighth grader participate after all these years of admiring them. I will definitely get back to you on who the winner is this year and which charity was donated to. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

      • Nicole Christensen says:

        Update: Winners were announced today:
        1st place: Snoopy’s dog house
        2nd Place: Wal-E
        3rd: Cinderella’s Carriage

        $1102 was raised! When I find out which charities are the recipients, I will let you all know!
        HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

        • Krista says:

          How awesome! They were all such good designs it would have been hard to pick! They raised quite a bit of money. Thank you for the update.
          Happy Halloween!!

  3. Dori Troutman says:

    Hi Nicole,

    WOW! Those are some talented kids! :-) Our Botanical Gardens in Huntsville, AL (our closest large city) has what they call a Scarecrow Trail in the gardens each year. But it is mainly businesses that participate. I LOVE that this is the school kids. Such a great idea and they sure have put a lot of work and effort into it. Great job!

    – Dori –

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dori! Thanks! Aren’t they amazing? I am blown away by the ideas they come up with. I’ve known so many of these kids since they were small; to see their work on this is exciting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. bonnie b says:

    What a great event. One to look forward to definitely! And, like you, I could not pick a winner – they would all have to be. Hats off to all the 8th graders for amazing projects.
    Thanks, Nicole, for always giving us really interesting and insightful reads. (And with great picture too!)

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Bonnie, Oh thank you! You are so kind. As for the winner, I feel the same way. They are all winners! However, Friday a winner will be announced, and we can find out what charities will the prize money will be donated to. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Marilyn Collins says:

    WOW! Those Halloween creations are first rate. Everyone should be proud of their projects. Talented for sure!
    Marilyn

  6. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I am so impressed with these 8th graders imagination and creativity!! They are so funny too, and I love Snoopy and his house. The M & M’s are a cute idea. They are all great! Audrey’s group had an interesting and very creative display. I would bet they all had fun doing this!
    Love you and great blog.
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom! Thanks! Aren’t they amazing? I am so impressed with how they all take an idea from paper to these giant displays. Audrey’s groups’ Headless Horseman stands about eight feet tall! When the contest is over, it will “live” at one of our friend’s houses whose child was in the group. They will put it out each Halloween, so we will get to see it for years to come. Love you, Nicole

  7. Denise Ross says:

    They’re all fantastic Nicole. I’m impressed! Well done to all the eighth graders. I can see how community spirit would really come to the fore with something like this. To donate to a charity too with the winnings is just beautiful.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Denise. I am so happy my daughter has grown up in a town where the little things like this really are so meaningful. I also loved seeing that, though this was a competition of sorts, no one felt “competitive”. They all cheered each other on and admired each others’ work – another valuable lesson. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Susan says:

    Great halloween menagerue…,got a lot of creative people there. Nice that you made so much money. Too. I liked the Queen of hearts and alice in wonderl and such. Couldn’t fugure out the cube thing, lol great puctures.n

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      The cube was hard to photograph. It changes and looks 3D depending on where you stand. It was a neat idea! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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