October 19th, 2020

DIY Public Art: Scarecrows have landed in downtown McMinnville

If you drive around McMinnville’s wine country, you may spot a scarecrow or two dotting the farmland, but right now, the biggest concentration of these popular plant-based figures is in the city … all the scarecrows are here!

Alyson Carefoot and Haylie DeForrest created this eye scream!

October is the occasion for our annual Scarecrow Contest, a fall tradition started by the McMinnville Downtown Association in 2013. Local shop owners and groups get their Halloween on and shift into Frankenstein mode: They make a man (or sometimes a woman) and post the life-sized creature along Third Street to greet passersby.

Given the organic and often spontaneous fashion with which they often come together, it’s an exquisitely autumnal showcase for DIY public art. 

We chatted with a few of this year’s entrants to get the story behind the scarecrow. There are plenty more, so take advantage of the nice weather to come downtown and see them all.  

Alyson Carefoot and Haylie DeForrest of Serendipity Ice Cream put their heads together and came up with the headless fellow pictured above. “We combed through photos of scarecrows we found on Pinterest and Google, with an added twist,” Haylie said. “We wanted to make sure we incorporated ice cream into it.”

The McMinnville Garden Club’s witch on a rake broom is the only entry that’s above eye level, out in front of Mac Pharmacy. “We have members pitch in,” said Cozette Caster, who noted that the club is a regular contestant. “We meet, somebody comes up with an idea, and we get busy.”  

Diana Riggs got her staff at Mac Market to dream up this crow-faced nightmare. “Because we’re an almost all-female organization, we tend to channel strong female vocalists, especially from the 1990s,” she said. “Thus, ‘Scaryl Crow’ was born. We love a good play on words.” 

McMinnville High School drama teacher Dani Potter asked students if they’d like to enter the contest this year, “and there was a resounding YES over the Zoom squares.” Their entry is a nod to Zoltar from the musical adaptation and film Big. “Our goal was to find a way to connect and be creative with each other, even if we can’t be together in school right now.”

“Harvest Terroir” is Willamette Valley Vineyards’ “fun take on a wino scarecrow,” said the winery’s Madisyn Chaufty, who works in the tasting room. “This is our first year entering, and we are very excited about it!” she said.

“McMinnville: Pumpkin Spiders” by the mother-daughter duo of Rhonda and Natasha Westart celebrates some of the city’s popular events, icons and attractions, anticipating their post-COVID return: “It’s about remembering all the great times in the community and how we look forward to those events returning,” said Natasha.

*Editor’s note: Which scarecrow is your favorite? You can vote here.

David Bates is a McMinnville writer who has appeared in Gallery Theater productions since 1998.