ST. CHARLES – Andrea Kruger makes sure to mark the date of Scarecrow Fest on her calendar every year.
Kruger and her children, Peri, 10, and Hannah, 7, brought a pair of jeans and a sweater Friday to make their own scarecrow, which will stand near a tree in their front yard in Vernon Hills, wearing a hockey mask.
“The goal is to make a scarecrow, put him in the car and look around at different scarecrows and vendors,” she said. “It’s so beautiful around here.”
The 27th annual Scarecrow Fest kicked off Friday, this year in three downtown St. Charles locations to help relieve congestion in Lincoln Park, where the festival is held each year. About 120 scarecrows are on display through Sunday in Lincoln Park, at the St. Charles Municipal Center and on First Street.
A carnival and inflatables were set up in two lots, but four inflatables were deflated Friday afternoon because of an inspection issue. Those four inflatables are expected to be up and running for the rest of the festival.
Ruth Heatherington of Westchester has been attending Scarecrow Fest for the past 23 years. She said she likes that the festival is spread out in three places this year because it allows people to take their time and enjoy the scarecrows people put a lot of time and effort into making.
“I love the changing colors, the atmosphere and the vibe of St. Charles,” she said.
Amy Egolf, executive director of the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said last year’s festival drew between 150,000 and 180,000 visitors, more than double the amount of visitors six years ago when 60,000 people attended.
She said the Lincoln Park area had become so crowded that it presented a potential public safety issue, and she said people weren’t able to enjoy looking at the scarecrows because it was so crowded.
Ballots are available at several locations in town, and people can vote for scarecrows in six categories including mechanical, whimsical and children’s scarecrows.
Brenda Behrends and her four daughters planned to vote on at least two scarecrows – one made by her daughter, Jaiden, 8, for Girl Scout Troop 1195, and the other made by Jaiden’s sister, Julia, 10, for Girl Scout Troop 4849.
Behrends already had voted for what she thought was the best mechanical scarecrow display – a Munster’s-themed robotic display, where “Grandpa” attempted to work on Herman Munster’s teeth with an intimidating drill.
The best part of Scarecrow Fest is “I think seeing all the scarecrows,” she said. “That, and the craft show.”