Sunny autumn weather helped to scare up big crowds Saturday for the 31st annual St. Charles Scarecrow Fest. The three-day festival, which brings in an estimated $6 million in tourism to St. Charles, concludes on Sunday, Oct. 9.
"We're grateful for such great weather," said Lula S. Cassidy, the executive director of the Greater St. Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We were approximating attendance at 100,000, but the turnout has been so great that we're hopeful that we'll hit 140,000."
Location: Throughout downtown St. Charles, including Pottawatomie Park, 8 North Ave.; scarecrowfest.com
Remaining hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9
Tickets: No admission charge, but carnival rides and other attractions require tickets
Parking: Area lots and a shuttle service runs to multiple locations from The Quad (Charlestowne Mall)
The Scarecrow Fest is spread throughout downtown St. Charles on both sides of the Fox River. It features carnival rides, a petting zoo, merchant booths, craft stations and a classic car show staged by new festival sponsor Baltria.
But of course, the festival's signature attraction is the more than 100 scarecrow creations. They're made by enterprising families, businesses, churches, schools and community groups to compete in seven different categories.
"All the entries are local, except for one, which came from California," said Cassidy about a "Star Wars"-inspired pumpkin-filled creation called: "Scare Wars: Yoda and the Battle of the Scarecrows."
"I'm not sure of the relation -- they might be grandparents. But they were working with local children to make this entry," said DeAnn Wagner, associate director of the Greater St. Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Also in the mix is St. Charles resident Mark Stevens, who entered the scarecrow competition for the first time in the "mechanical" category with "A Halloween Nightmare."
"I wanted to put the scare back into scarecrow," said Stevens, who specially picked out 37 "scary" pop music tracks to accompany his demonic towering pumpkin creature.
"Doing decorations is sort of a hobby, so every year I try to do one major project for my house," said Stevens as he sat in a deluxe lawn chair eavesdropping on the crowd reactions. "I had friends who entered this competition before and I thought this year might be a good time to enter."
Cathy Perez and her sons, Gabriel and Raphael, were back to attend their second Scarecrow Fest. And that's even though it took an hour to drive from their home in Chicago Heights.
"It's a great family activity," said Perez as she and her sons were sharing a "Bucket o' Fries" in Lincoln Park, which was rebranded "Arcada Theatre Zone" for the Scarecrow Fest.
"The kids love seeing all of the scarecrow entries," said Perez. "It's fantastic."