October 11, 2012 — You know the feeling. You pull into a small town, and everybody there freezes and stares at you like you’re some kind of invasive species. That’s what it was like the other day when we rolled into Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
But it wasn’t the residents who were giving us all those evil eyes. It was their scarecrows.
Jaffrey is in the southwest part of the state, a pleasant part of a generally pleasant state that’s great for Sunday foliage drives and small town pit stops.
For the past decade or so, the people of Jaffrey have thrown a Scarecrows on the Common event around Columbus Day weekend. You pay three bucks for a wooden scarecrow frame, some old clothes, a small white sack for the face, and all the straw you can stuff. Close to 1000 people attend, churning out some 300 scarecrows. Most get really into it and bring their own clothes, masks, and other scarecrow accoutrements to contribute to this community of straw men and women and monsters.
Then they leave them up for people like you and me to check out. The scarecrows mostly line the downtown area along Main Street, which include the park, the library, and the river walk, but they also extend to some of the shopping areas just outside the downtown.
It’s a complete inversion of the lonely scarecrow lost in a cornfield trope.
The scarecrows are also judged, but I’m not sure what the prize is. I am sure, though, that if you’re making a scarecrow for the prize, then you’re just not getting it, man.
Theses legions of stuffed people completely transform this town from one you’d pass right through, barely firing enough brain cells to think the single word “quaint” to one where you slam into a parking spot hard enough to autograph your car’s tire treads into the asphalt, glue your camera to your face, and ogle the Autumn crafts project like they’re all exhibits in the Louvre.
Which is kind of weird when you realize that attracting attention to a place is the opposite of what a scarecrow is meant to do.
And while I’m talking about this event like I’m an expert, the truth is, I only found out about it a couple of months back, so this past weekend was my first experience walking those lines of scarecrows like some drill sergeant dreading the next, uh, crop of recruits. Heck, I’d never even heard of the town before, and it’s only about 35 miles from where I live. The only time I got even near the town was on the way to the Keene Pumpkin Festival.
So something tells me this little event is catching on.
Which is great. Because Jaffrey should get tons of credit for this.
In fact, I think every town should do this.
Especially those with crow problems, I guess.