The Simmons family, of Montgomery, has been attending the St. Charles Scarecrow Fest for several years now, getting more efficient with their scarecrow-making each season. This year, they brought their own clothes to stuff straw into and had their assembly system down pat -- one person filled the head, another the chest, someone else stuffed the legs, and a fourth person took care of tying everything into place.
"The first year, it was really hard," said 15-year-old Alexis, remembering the difficulty in getting all the scarecrow parts to stay together.
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His parents, Camille and Bill Simmons, and their other children, 13-year-old Danielle, 10-year-old Micah and 5-year-old Ben, were among the many families in the make-your-own-scarecrow tent Sunday at the 27th annual Scarecrow Fest.
Tens of thousands of people swarmed downtown St. Charles for the festival this year, which filled three different locations on both sides of the Fox River.
Amy Egolf, executive director of the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the decision to expand the festival beyond Lincoln Park was because of space. With more than 150,000 people at last year's event, organizers wanted to cut down on congestion of festival goers and vehicle traffic, adding locations along First Street and the Riverwalk.
Some people complained about the new layout, especially because people had to visit all three areas to see all the entries in the scarecrow contest, where locals displayed their creations in children, family, whimsical, traditional, business and mechanical categories.
But Sherry Riggs, of St. Charles, thought the change was a good idea.
"It's kind of nice that it forces people to walk all over," Riggs said. "You want people to go to both sides of the river."
Egolf said the mission of the award-winning festival is to promote St. Charles as a destination -- which it is on festival weekend, especially, for people from near and far. The visitor tent at Lincoln Park even had a scarecrow representative of Hampshire, England, where a similar festival will be held next weekend.
Besides scarecrows, the festival had live music, food, an arts and crafts show, carnival rides and a petting zoo.