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Scarecrow judging proves both exciting and challenging for Recorder reporter

  • Judging scarecrows in the 13th annual Scarecrow in the Park festival in Bernardston are Mia Deangelis, Karen Fitzpatrick, Greenfield Recorder Reporter Shelby Ashline and Marsha Pratt. They deemed this scarecrow of two turkeys eating a human to be the winner in the funniest category. Oct. 20, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Judging scarecrows in the 13th annual Scarecrow in the Park festival in Bernardston are Mia Deangelis, Karen Fitzpatrick, Marsha Pratt and Greenfield Recorder Reporter Shelby Ashline. This whale was made of natural materials. Oct. 20, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Greenfield Recorder Reporter Shelby Ashline judged scarecrows in the 13th annual Scarecrow in the Park festival in Bernardston. Oct. 20, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, a scarecrow by Karen Stinchfield, won in the history category of the 13th annual Scarecrow in the Park scarecrow contest on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • ”The Seekie Bird,” by Cody and Kayla Fish, won in the most interesting use of materials category of the 13th annual Scarecrow in the Park scarecrow contest on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo



Recorder Staff
Sunday, October 29, 2017

BERNARDSTON — Though I’ve walked through Cushman Park before, on Oct. 20 I had no idea what to expect.

When I arrived shortly after 4 p.m. that Friday, the park was filled with elaborate creatures. Everything from a giant spider that inspired “Arachnophobia” flashbacks to a version of SpongeBob SquarePants crafted from a straw bale decorated the area and raised excitement for the 13th annual Scarecrow in the Park fall festival, held Oct. 21 and 22.

The festival is a staple of the Bernardston community each year, serving as the Bernardston Kiwanis Club’s largest fundraiser and offering entertainment for adults and children alike through hay rides, live music and a tractor parade, to name a few attractions.

The scarecrows, though, are always the event’s core, inspiring enthusiasm from those who participate in building them as well as observers. So when Karen Stinchfield, a member of the five-person Scarecrow in the Park organizing committee, asked me in mid-September if I was interested in being a scarecrow contest judge, I was over the moon.

I and three other women — Mia Deangelis, Karen Fitzpatrick and Marsha Pratt — would be responsible for selecting a winner in five categories: most interesting use of materials, scariest, prettiest, funniest and history. Scarecrow in the Park organizers and a representative from Bear Country would be responsible for judging the classroom history entries and “Bearcrows,” respectively.

I had never been a judge of anything, though years of experience attending horse shows left me able to pinpoint who would win before awards were announced. That expertise certainly wouldn’t translate to a scarecrow contest. Furthermore, the winners of the five categories would receive a $100 prize – nothing to be taken lightly.

I resorted to doing one of the things I do best as a reporter: thinking of questions. By the time I entered the park, my head was swirling with them. Would there be score sheets for each scarecrow? Would we be ranking them on qualities to come up with a highest-scoring creation? What could I possibly add to a judging of scarecrows?

My questions were soon answered, as I took cues from the three veteran judges. There were no score sheets, though Fitzpatrick acted as sort of our head judge, jotting down which scarecrows we liked for each category. We walked two circuits around the park critiquing the creations, as organizers and vendors continued setting up tents and chairs.

Judging proved to be a highly democratic process void of arguments. Our group was generally in agreement, and if not, reached a consensus through discussion.

Cody and Kayla Fish’s scarecrow “The Seekie Bird” caught our eyes from the beginning and won in the most interesting use of materials category. Stinchfield’s scarecrow of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, protagonist of Jane Austin’s acclaimed 1800s novel “Pride and Prejudice,” was a standout in the history category, and had tight competition in the prettiest category with her dazzling, artistic corn kernel face.

The scariest scarecrow award went to “Skaren,” a large black spider by the Laprade family; the funniest scarecrow was “Revenge Thanksgiving” by Julia Dickinson (two turkeys preparing a human for Thanksgiving dinner); and Heather Scoble Dion’s “Crowella” won in the prettiest category.

Based on my experience, I can say judging would be much easier with more categories, because so many of the creations deserved to be winners.

However, the categories also frequently played to entrants’ disadvantage. Oftentimes a scarecrow was entered in an inappropriate category that left us judges puzzled, such as entries in the scariest category that lacked creepiness or in the funniest category that lacked humor.

I recommend scarecrow makers seek opinions on which category to enter, or they can also always enter in multiple categories if they’re unsure.

Being a scarecrow judge was an amazing experience, and something I hope I can relive in the future. Perhaps the best part, though, was seeing the smiling faces of both adults and children in the park who, like us, were seeing the scarecrows for the first time. Seeing their faces, it’s obvious just how much Scarecrow in the Park means to the Bernardston community and beyond.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257