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Warning to crows: Downtown is going to get scary

August 29, 2018

The Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association is scaring up some buzz for downtown businesses.

The nonprofit community group is preparing for its third annual scarecrow contest featuring actual scarecrows.

While it will last from Oct. 20 through Nov. 10, this is not a Halloween or fall-themed gimmick. The FDFA means business.

The group was formed three years ago to develop projects that generate public interest in the city’s ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown. While farm or garden scarecrows are traditionally used to keep fowl from feeding on crops or seeds, the FDFA is hoping these urban scarecrows actually encourage visitors to feast on the sights and sounds of downtown Friendswood.

“We hoped people would come downtown to see the scarecrows and then once they saw the scarecrows, they would go and shop,” said FDFA member Michelle Thompson, who coordinates the contest. “It’s kind of a fun thing, and merchants can benefit from it as well.”

Scarecrows multiply

It started when Thompson had a vision of scarecrows lining the storefronts of downtown Friendswood. She researched the logistics and determined the scarecrows would have to be placed on merchants’ property and ideally be visible from the street.

“I thought, ‘How am I going to promote this and how are people going to respond to seeing these scarecrows?’ — because you can’t see the storefronts from the street,” she said.

It started out as a decorating contest, and while the contest is still the main thrust of the project, it has grown to an all-out scarecrow fest.

The first contest brought in 28 scarecrows representing various merchants and organizations located within the downtown district, the next year it was 32 and this year, Thompson expects to see at least 50.

Friendswood ISD, for instance, created about 16 scarecrows with school themes from various district departments.

Brian Campbell, another FDFA member, has designed everything from a SpongeBob scarecrow to a Harry Potter one.

For Thompson, the contest is just part of the fun; the actual process of building a scarecrow that generates the most enthusiasm for participants.

These aren’t just cardboard cutouts or replicas, said Thompson, but the straw-stick-and-raggedy-clothes-stuffed real thing.

Finding the right materials is part of the creative process: Burlap, sticks, newspaper, plastic bags, hay — and in Thompson’s case — bamboo.

Whether stuck in the ground with a stick or attached to a metal fence post, the scarecrows stand around 6 feet high. Thompson shares a few tips: the T-shaped support stick has to be tall enough for the legs to hang and if newspaper is used for stuffing, it must be wrapped in plastic bags so it won’t disintegrate in rain.

“I stuffed the head, the body, put the pants and gave him suspenders … stapled the burlap head to the stick — that’s a traditional scarecrow,” she said.

Tthe FDFA is hoping to get more Friendswood residents to join the party. The bottom-line objective, Thompson said, is to get more people engaged and interested in overall revitalization efforts.

“The people who help and volunteer have fun, but really, we really want to get more involvement from the community,” Thompson said.

Thompson encourages anyone wishing to participate in the project to find a family-friendly theme and register, and the FDFA will find a prime spot to showcase the scarecrow.

While the Texas Music Festival, which is next set for March 2, 2019, is the FDFA’s grandest event of the year, the scarecrow contest is picking up momentum.

“I wanted this to be fun, and also a way to get people to come downtown to see what’s going on,” she said.

To register to participate in the contest, visit https://bit.ly/2BZXlmp. Awards are given for first, second and third place.

yorozco@hcnonline.com

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