If cooler weather and grocery shelves lined with pumpkin products aren’t enough to indicate that Halloween is just around the corner, the many scarecrows standing outside Benicia businesses should do the trick.
Benicia Main Street will be holding its 8th Annual Scarecrow Contest through Oct. 31. Over 100 businesses on First Street and all across Benicia will be designing scarecrows to display either inside or outside their buildings.
Three mystery judges will pick their first, second and third place choices, and the public will be able to vote in the “People’s Choice” competition by picking up a ballot at participating businesses. Voting will end Oct. 19, after which the winners of both contests will be announced.
Event Coordinator Deborah Housman said the idea for the event came about during a promotions committee meeting in 2008 to attract people to the downtown area. It has since extended to other parts of town, including Southampton Shopping Center, Solano Square and Rose Drive.
“The response has been tremendous, especially since we’ve extended it outwards,” Housman said. “We have 128 participants this year.”
The scarecrows offer a chance for businesses to show off their creativity. Last year, Pups ’n’ Purrz on First Street won the “People’s Choice” award with an evil-grinned black cat that was placed on the roof. First Impressions Salon & Spa, also on First Street, won first place in the mystery judges’ contest for its scarecrow depicting a skeleton woman with a beehive hairdo and curlers and a cardboard sign reading “A Look to Die For.”
Housman noted the creativity of these scarecrows has been good for business.
“A lot of them attract attention when they’re creative or funny,” she said. “They don’t even have to tie in to what the business is.”
A lot of the scarecrows are inspired by popular culture, Housman said. Last year had two entries related to the Minions, the inescapable breakout characters from the “Despicable Me” films who had their own starring movie this past summer.
Housman says voter turnout will be good for businesses who promote the contest.
“When you have a business, you’ll have more of a chance to talk it up to customers and motivate them,” she said.
Overall, Housman is pleased with the growth of the contest in past years and hopes it will become a tourist attraction for people visiting from out of town.
A directory of this year’s participating businesses can be found at BeniciaMainStreet.org or any of the involved businesses. The winning scarecrows will still be on display after voting ends. To see a gallery of past contests, visit Benicia Main Street’s Facebook page.