Cool, gray skies and brightly colored leaves created the perfect backdrop for St. Charles' 28th annual Scarecrow Fest Saturday.
For Ron and Debbie Kass of Willow Springs, it was a completely new take on their old memories as they brought their preschool-aged grandson, who was visiting from Janesville, Wis., just as they used to take their own children.
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What was once a concentrated display of homemade scarecrows at the corner of Main and Fourth streets had since become a variety of activities including a carnival and craft fair scattered throughout the downtown and along the Riverwalk.
"It's all over town!" Debbie Kass said.
They thought their most recent memories of the fest had to be at least a decade old.
For Lisa Cavallari of Elgin and her 3-year-old and 5-year-old daughters, everything about the fest was new.
"They're chomping at the bit," Cavallari said of her children.
Though her family had never visited the fest before, she'd seen the signs driving through town and guessed correctly that her girls would be excited about the petting zoo and the chance to check out all the creatively decorated scarecrows.
Different corners of the park showcased different categories of scarecrow, with the children's and whimsical categories being the most crowded.
These scarecrows borrowed from books and movies such as "The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe," "The Cat in the Hat"'s Thing 1 and Thing 2, "Zombie Girl Scouts" and "Despicable Me" with its little, hyperactive Minion characters.
The rarer mechanical category featured the robotic "Terminator" from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, a gold owl with a revolving head and "Scarecrowers" in a canoe with moving paddles.
The event draws food vendors and other businesses in equal measure to the crowds of sightseers that come for the scarecrows.
"Every year we do this booth and it's just packed," said AAA Chicago Insurance Agent Carolyn Kasper. "Everyone's happy. It's a nice, family day."
The fest draws people from the metropolitan area. During just the first hour Saturday, Kasper had already spoken with visitors from Buffalo Grove and Chicago.
Fellow AAA Chicago employee Dean Cronister said that the fest has been known to draw as many as 75,000 to 80,000 people throughout its three days. His company's booth had already given away 12,000 Halloween-themed bags on Friday alone, when local kids were out of school.
Jay Milano, owner of "Must Love Dogs," a traveling hot dog vendor in St. Charles, said most days of Scarecrow Fest, he does at least 10 times a normal day's business along the Riverwalk.
"For us, it's huge," Milano said. "Our single biggest days are Scarecrow Fest and River Fest in June."
The fest continues from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.