ST. CHARLES - Carole Bronec loves nothing better than warm, sunny days for the weekend of Scarecrow Fest in St. Charles.
After all, few factors have driven business for the bake sale fundraiser booth Bronec helps run every year than beautiful autumn weather.
And while temperatures may have not been warm, sunny skies and a promise of fun drew festival-goers by the thousands once again to St. Charles' annual fall weekend-long party - and consequently, to the bake sale booth for the Women of St. Patrick Church, which this year was again staffed by Bronec.
"When the weather is good, the crowds are outstanding," Bronec said. "And the weather, this year, is good."
Despite temperatures hovering in the mid-40s throughout much of the day Saturday, crowds from throughout the Tri-Cities and beyond filed through Lincoln Park and downtown St. Charles yet again to gaze at the dozens of scarecrows submitted by community groups, businesses and others, and to ride carnival rides, take in a free concert, snack or grab a meal, and peruse booths where merchants and others hawked goods and services of many types.
For many, the festival has remained an annual destination.
The Heilers family, of St. Charles, walked to the festival at Lincoln Park Saturday afternoon from their home just a few blocks away, as they have for years.
"We live close by, so this an annual fall tradition for us," said Tracy Heilers, who came to the fest with her husband, Gary, and their sons.
Gary said the chilly temperatures didn't keep them away, as they had already spent the morning outside at their sons' soccer matches.
"And besides, you're not going to get too many more days to just be outside yet this year," he said.
Alma Arellanes, of Montgomery, came to Scarecrow Fest Saturday with her parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and other family members, continuing a tradition they also began years ago.
But she said the colder weather this year than in years past prompted the family to decide to visit the festival for just one day, rather than their customary three.
"This is more like a coffee or hot cider kind of day," Arellanes said. "All right for maybe one day, but not all weekend."
Arellanes also echoed a number of others who were not pleased by changes to Scarecrow Fest this year.
In years past, the scarecrows had been displayed in and around Lincoln Park. This year, however, festival organizers opted to spread out the scarecrow exhibits, distributing them in three downtown St. Charles locations to help spread out the crowds of hundreds of thousands who annually file through the park for the fest.
Arellanes said she believed more scarecrows should have been placed in Lincoln Park.
"It's just too spread out this year," she said.
But others, such as the Heilers, said the changes enhanced the festival.
"It was so crowded before (in years past)," said Gary Heilers. "You couldn't even walk."
"We're excited to see the changes, and see it grow like this," Tracy Heilers said.
Scarecrow Fest is scheduled to continue Sunday.