MONROE, CT — Families taking a drive through the Great Hollow Lake section of Wolfe Park will see a brilliant fall display this October, as a creative lineup of scarecrows designed by Monroe businesses line the route.
Visitors can stop for photos with their favorite scarecrows, then vote for them online. Proceeds from Monroe Parks and Recreation’s first Scarecrow Contest will pay for scholarships for children, whose parents cannot afford to enroll them in the Summer Fun Days Camp program.
“It’s a tough time to ask people for money, but summer 2021 is around the corner and kids will still want to go to camp and some families are in very dire need,” said Missy Orosz, director of parks and recreation. “Camp is a bright spot for them. Their children get to go outside and go swimming.”
Orosz was thinking of fun, COVID-safe activities for families when she came up with the idea for a scarecrow contest. She said the fall display will be comparable to a Christmas lights display.
“How can scarecrows be canceled?” she said. “Halloween is a holiday with no religion, so everyone can participate. It’s a fall activity outside, which can help with social distancing. People can drive in their car and look at them or walk around.”
The display will run from the weeks of Oct. 12 through 31. Visitors will either vote on the Monroe Parks and Recreation Department website or Facebook page. The winning business will be announced on Nov. 2 and be awarded a complimentary picnic site, good for one day, for 100 guests or less during the 2021 summer season.
There is a $75 registration fee to have space for a scarecrow, a sign and a stake. To download a registration form, click here or visit the Monroe Parks and Recreation website. Registration will be from now until Oct. 7.
Positive exposure for businesses
“In the past there’s been limitations on advertising in the park, but this is a way businesses can get their name or company out there, while having fun,” Orosz said. “It will be great to see the creativity businesses will come up with.”
For instance, she said a gutter business could make a scarecrow with funny gutter arms, which catches the eye of a family who later needs new gutters for their home and remembers the display.
Orosz approached William Holsworth, the town’s community and economic recovery coordinator, about the contest. They will hit the pavement together this week, to ask businesses to participate in the contest. Orosz said she hopes at least 25 businesses will make a scarecrow.
“I think it will be a huge success,” Holsworth said. “I think it will be a lot of fun. I just want to be able to provide something positive to the town, so people can enjoy themselves.”
Holsworth said he has already approached some business owners, who are enthusiastic about the contest. He also helped them to come up with ideas. For example, he said a pizza place owner talked about making a scarecrow body out of a pizza and a calzone, and Holsworth told waitresses at one town eatery they could make a scarecrow that resembles its menu items.
Participation in the contest goes beyond Monroe’s business community. Orosz said life skills students, who are age 18 to 21, are helping the effort by stuffing envelops. And Orosz will team up with Henna Ali, the town’s director of community and social services, to make a scarecrow together.
Scholarship money ran out
The Summer Fun Days Camp is for children who are preschoolers all the way up to the ninth grade. It is held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and there are fun themes such as sports jersey day and a Disney day, and activities like making tie dye T-shirts and chew toys for dogs.
There are also field trips and the camp had a popsicle party last summer.
Orosz said it is a self-funded program, run solely from the registration fees, which pay for equipment, staffing and other operation costs. On average, it is $250 a week. Though there are discounts for families with multiple children, some families still cannot afford it.
Money from the Social Services Exchange fund is used for scholarships for those who need financial assistance. Every year, Mary Ann Kalm, the town’s social services coordinator, sends Orosz a list of families who qualify.
“Some years only two or three kids can go full ride, based on money in the fund,” Orosz said. “This year, people lost their jobs and a lot of scholarship money went out. We just didn’t have enough to cover it. We want to build a cushion now.”