STEVENSVILLE - Be extra cautious if you're taking the river path entrance into town.
Traffic has been slower than usual and sudden braking has been occurring ever since 30 different scarecrows showed up along the sidewalk to welcome people to Stevensville.
The straw and pumpkin characters, including a giant dog and a denture-swapping couple, will be there all week, and if Sunday was any indication, they will continue to attract crowds of admirers and inspire unsuspecting drivers to stop in their tracks to get a better look.
Far from frightening, the sixth annual Stevensville Scarecrow Festival is a whimsical celebration of community and public art, said Gary Knapp.
"Every year we are amazed by the amount of energy and creativity that people put into their scarecrows," said Knapp, who is president of the Stevensville Art and Sculpture Society, which hosts the event. "We love that businesses, individuals and groups like 4-H and scout troops get together to come up with an idea."
It helps too, that amidst the fun and creativity, there's a $200 prize for best entry.
This year voting took place during the town's First Friday art walk, and 545 ballots were cast. The far away winner was the Lone Rock Girl Scouts' entry called "Monsters Like Girl Scout Cookies Too!"
"I think we won because it was both sweet and scary," explained 12-year-old Alex Deschamps. "It didn't make any of the little kids cry - but they were scared."
The humorous but spooky entry captured the tension-filled moment of a young Girl Scout knocking on a stranger's door to sell a wagon filled with cookies. Behind the cobweb covered door is a giant ghoulish creature about to answer.
"This is what you get when you let kids loose with an idea," said Penny Bertram, a proud parent and co-troop leader for the winning Lone Rock Girl Scout Troop 3756.
While taking Sunday afternoon to get a good look at all the entries in full daylight, the troop leader and some of her scouts learned they had won the people's choice award - and the $200.
"How will we spend the money? That's easy," Bertram said. "It is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts this summer, and we don't know how we will do it, but our intention is to take the whole troop to the celebrations in Washington, D.C., on June 7.
"Thousands upon thousands of girl scouts will be there, and they will all get together in the Mall to sing campfire songs and tell stories," she said. "The Smithsonian and the White House will be doing a lot of special stuff, and it will be a trip of a lifetime for our troop." (Anyone who wants to help the troop get to D.C. can call Lone Rock School at 777-3314 or Bertram at 777-2567.)
Collectively, the scarecrow entries make for an impressive sight and good reason to take a
walk with the dog, said Chad Wilkerson.
"It's a good way to support the community and to be part of the community," said Wilkerson, who came to stroll and admire with his golden retriever, Bailey and his wife, Kelsey. "And with warm weather like this, it's a way to enjoy the last bit of summer."
"I love it," said Cara Ayres, who came to see the scarecrows with Jonwyn, her 9-year-old daughter. "It shows the strength of our community and our love for humor and art.
"I don't think there are too many places in America where you could walk through town and see this kind of scenery and this kind of art with your child in the out-of-doors," she said. "It really does kick off the fall season and the holiday season."
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at email@example.com.