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Article Published October 9, 2018
Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce Scarecrow Fest Returns this Month
Aviva Luria

In the coming weeks, the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce fifth annual Scarecrow Fest will once again populate the town with handmade straw figures and displays, adding some fun and whimsy to the fall season. Locals are encouraged to enter their own scarecrow or simply take a walk through downtown and vote on their favorite.

New this year is a text-to-vote system that will allow viewers to cast their votes via their phones, rather than logging onto a website, as in years past. Winners are determined by popular vote, said Chamber of Commerce President Judy Sullivan. This year, voters may vote once per day, for a maximum of 10 votes each.

“People really enjoy seeing the scarecrows,” Sullivan said. “Some are elaborate and some are very simple. It’s a great way to market your business or organization and have a little fun in the process.”

One of the many businesses that enter the contest each year is the Saybrook Country Barn (SCB), which won in the “Spookiest” category in 2016 and promises to give the other entrants a run for their money.

The staff is very eager to win the Chamber’s Golden Broom Award, said SCB human resources and office manager Suzy Fisher. The Golden Broom Award, new this year, is a plaque that will be presented to the first-place winner for display to the public.

“We have a great group of talented people collaborating this year to put together an amazing scarecrow display,” she said, though she declined to divulge details about what they have planned.

“It’s safe to say that it’s going to be wickedly fun and very creative,” she said.

SCB’s winning entry was a humorous depiction of a scarecrow being gobbled up by a chair, accompanied by a sign reading “Beware of Chaircrow.” SCB’s warehouse foreman, Ben Levatino, was instrumental in creating that display, Fisher said.

This year, like last, there will be no categories, but straight-up first-, second-, and third-place finishers. There’s plenty of competition: 35 to 50 participants enter each year, with 60 being the most so far, said Sullivan. Businesses, organizations, schools, families, and individuals may enter. Those without a place to display their scarecrow can call the chamber, which will find a spot for them.

Asked if she had advice for someone entering for the first time, Sullivan responded, “The more creative, the better.”

“We had a cardiologist’s office do a Wizard of Oz theme: ‘If I Only Had a Heart.’ The Fred Astaire Ballroom had two ballroom dancers. The Essex Savings Bank made a pink pig,” Sullivan said.

The Chamber imposes no specifications, so scarecrows can be of any size. One year, the Children’s Tree montessori had “tiny little scarecrows,” said Sullivan.

Alex Foulkes, co-owner of Penny Lane Pub, which won in the “Traditional” category in 2016, said the contest is an indication of Old Saybrook’s town spirit.

“We’re lucky to have a really supportive chamber, and businesses here that support the chamber. It works in favor of the town and brings the community together.”

Foulkes is not deterred by the staff time and resources required to enter.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of it again,” he said, noting that he has some creative people on his staff. “Old Saybrook has a lot going on these days, and we’re happy about that.”

The deadline to enter and submit a photo is Monday, Oct. 15. The entry fee is $25, which covers the chamber’s costs. Text-to-vote will take place from Wednesday to Saturday, Oct. 17 to 27. Winners will be announced on Halloween on the Chamber of Commerce’s website and via social media.

For more information and to enter, visit