Fall fest to include kids’ games, trick-or-treating, chili cook-off

Now might be a good time to corner the market on straw as downtown Oxford prepares for the return of the annual Scarecrow Festival on Saturday, Oct. 6.

Organized by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the fun fall festival will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and include a whole slew of activities, games, contests, food and live music. Most of the action will take place in and around Centennial Park.

“It’s not a retail-driven event. It’s more of a community festival,” said DDA Executive Director Glenn Pape. “The idea is it gives people a chance to come downtown.”

There will be no shortage of things for kids to see and do as they go from the inflatable obstacle course and bounce house to the hay maze and pumpkin bowling, stopping along the way to get their faces painted and pick up a balloon animal or two.

“It’s really designed to be a family-friendly event,” Pape said.

Children are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating at participating downtown businesses from 1-3 p.m. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to drag their parents through all the stores,” Pape said.

Eight downtown restaurants will once again battle it out in a chili cook-off to see whose savory mix of meat and beans reigns supreme. At stake are two trophies – the people’s choice and the judges’ award – plus “bragging rights” for a whole year, Pape said.

For a small price, members of the public will be able to sample the chilis and vote for their favorite. Tasting begins at 11:30 a.m.

Need something sweet to go with that spicy chili? Grab a whole bunch of napkins and enter the pie-eating contest. The messy fun will begin at 12:30 p.m.

Creative folks who wish to get into the festival spirit now are invited to take part in the annual Scarecrow Contest. It’s free to enter and is open to both businesses and residents. Registration forms are available at downtownoxford.org and can be submitted to the DDA office at 22 W. Burdick St. or emailed to dda@thevillageofoxford.org.

Scarecrows are required to be complete and on display by Oct. 1 and remain on display through Oct. 31. All scarecrow displays must be self-supporting, no taller than 7 feet once installed, “in good taste” and made from scratch (no kits allowed).

Photographs of entries must be submitted to the DDA for judging by the public on the day of the festival. Voting will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entries do not need to be brought to Centennial Park.

Prizes will be awarded in three categories – most traditional, most creative and best use of recycled materials. Winning scarecrows will be announced at 3:30 p.m. Each winner will receive a gift card.

For more information about the Scarecrow Festival, including a full schedule of events, please visit downtownoxford.org.