About 35-40 minutes North of SLO on Highway 1 is the quaint town of Cambria. Each fall, the town transforms, hosting The Cambria Scarecrow Festival which is an incredibly unique event that happens annually during the month of October.
The festival began in 2009 with only 30 scarecrows on display, and has since grown into a nationally famed event with hundreds of scarecrows created by local students, businesses and residents. The creativity and variety of the scarecrows is incredible.
The displays range from tributes to past heroes including Teddy Roosevelt and his rough rider pal, and Frida Kahlo and Diego painting. There are movie characters like the famous duo from “Up” and Cinderella when she misses midnight… there are scarecrows that MOVE such as the New Wave Riders which can be seen biking on Main street in Cambria and Lucia grape stomper outside of a wine cellar stomping on her grapes.
The Festival is more than just a showcase of scarecrows, it usually includes extra activities on weekends [subject to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020]. Traditionally on the official opening weekend there’s wine, music and a silent auction at the Cambria Nursery to kick off the celebration. In the past there have also been a 5k run/walk which awards prizes to runners dressed up as the best scarecrows and an Oktoberfest celebration featuring local beers wines brats and music.
If you want build a scarecrow but your crafting skills are a bit rusty, the festival has workshops for helping participants who are interested in building the scarecrow of their dreams. There are design workshops, and workshops to help you restore past creations you have made that you’d like to enter in, again.
And if you can’t participate, there are other ways you can get involved such as becoming a volunteer, a sponsor, or even renting out a scarecrow for your business property. The the rental money will go toward helping fund local art programs.
Oh, and the best part is that the festival is not only a fun way to bring together the community through building decorative art for the city, it’s also a contest! There are a variety of categories for the contest including “Most Imaginative,” “Best Group Installation,” and “Best Animation.”
This particular scarecrow won the blue ribbon in the “most humorous” category the year I visited. You can’t see it too well in this picture, but it’s a robber cat, with a dog stuck to the back of his leg, trying to stop him from stealing valuables from this jewelry store. It’s called “Doggie Catcher.”
We thought this scarecrow was pretty funny, too. His name is Wally and he was outside Cambria Mimosa… hence the enormous mimosa he’s holding. But it’s okay, because he’s really good at sharing.
Conner tried to look grumpy to pose with Grumpy in the winning entry for this year’s “group” category which featured Snow White and all of the seven dwarves. You can tell he’s not as grumpy as the pretty realistic scarecrow he’s impersonating, but it’s a good impression.
Groot won second place for “using the unexpected” by incorporating the use of pool noodles into his design. So crafty!
You don’t have to be a resident of Cambria to enter in your scarecrow. All you need is to register your entry by mid-September, and to have a business who will display your entry outside their location in certain designated areas around Cambria from 8am on October 1st through October 31st.
The scarecrows will be taken down after October 31, but if you can’t make it to the festival to admire them in all of their glory in person before that, you can check out my slideshow below and a gallery of some of the most memorable ones on the official website by clicking here!
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