It doesn’t take a brain from the wizard to know that downtown Oxford’s annual Scarecrow Festival is the place to be when the air turns cool and the colorful leaves start falling.
The popular event is scheduled to return on Saturday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Most of the action will take place in Centennial Park.
“It’s going to be fun. We’ll be there rain or shine,” said Glenn Pape, executive director for the Downtown Development Authority. “Hopefully it won’t be 90 degrees and it won’t be 40 degrees.”
Pape believes the Scarecrow Festival is “a good mechanism to expose people to downtown Oxford.”
“The intent is to get people downtown and keep them there,” he said.
There will be plenty of activities, games, contests, food and live music to entertain visitors of all ages.
“It’s a family-oriented event,” said Pape, who noted the demographics show this is a “family-heavy community.”
“We have to have things for the kids to do in order to get the parents downtown,” he explained.
To that end, there will be inflatables, a straw maze, pumpkin bowling, face-painting, hay wagon rides between the park and Merge Studio & Gallery on Pleasant St., fire and police vehicles, and costume parades/contests for both kids and pets. The pet parade is at 2 p.m. and kids parade at 3:30 p.m.
Kids are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes to the festival and go trick-or-treating from business-to-business beginning at 1 p.m. Parents are encouraged to check out all the different shops and restaurants while their kids are collecting goodies.
Come hungry because there’s going to be a big chili cook-off featuring popular downtown restaurants.
“We have twice as many contestants this year,” Pape said.
Contestants include MC ‘Wiches, Sullivan’s Public House, HomeGrown Brewing Co., The Oxford Tap, 24th Street Sports Tavern, Ox Bar and Grill, 5-1 Diner, Victoria’s Delights and Red Knapp’s American Grill.
Want something sweet to accompany that savory chili?
Take part in the pie-eating contest, sponsored by the Achatz Handmade Pie Co., at 12:30 p.m. Dive in face first, eat fast and win a prize.
A number of businesses and homeowners will participate in this year’s scarecrow contest. The straw figures are to be displayed in front of their properties through Oct. 31.
Photographs of all the scarecrows will be on display in Centennial Park on the day of the festival, so the public can judge them and vote for their favorites.
Prizes will be awarded in three categories – most traditional, most creative and best use of recycled materials. Winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m.
Balancing Earth, a musical duo consisting of Jim Coury and Suzanne MacDermid, will provide live, family-friendly entertainment from 12 to 3:30 p.m.
According to Pape, events such as the Scarecrow Festival are designed to attract folks who don’t visit the downtown area on a regular basis.
He explained that in addition to village residents, people within a 25-minute driving radius consider this “their downtown,” but many of them “don’t get here very often,” so they might not be aware that the district is “constantly evolving.”
“Somebody who hasn’t been downtown for a year-and-a-half, they don’t know what’s here,” Pape said.
“We need to have reasons for them to come downtown and explore it,” he continued. “This is our opportunity to bring them in, show them a good time and get them to see what we’ve got new and going on in downtown Oxford.”