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Scarecrows return to downtown St. Charles

St. Charles annual Scarecrow Fest brings crowd for many decorated scarecrows fall favorites.

St. Charles annual Scarecrow Fest brings in a crowd for the many decorated scarecrows and fall favorites.

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♦ Oct. 5-7

♦ Lincoln Park, Main and Fourth streets, St. Charles

♦ Free

♦ (800) 777-4373

The 27th annual St. Charles Scarecrow Festival returns this weekend, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 5-6, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 7 at Lincoln Park in St. Charles.

Several changes are in store for the festival, said Amy Egolf, executive director of the St. Charles Visitors Bureau. One big change is moving the pre-made scarecrow displays that have traditionally been at Lincoln Park to different locations.

“We’ll have some scarecrows along the River Walk, and we’re moving some to the First Street grassy area . . . on the west side of the river,” she said. “The reason we’re doing that is because our attendance has exploded in the last few years. In 2006, we had 60,000 attendees, and last year the estimate was between 150,000 and 180,000 people. Lincoln Park had become extremely crowded. We’re trying to even out the flow of the festival throughout the entire downtown area.”

Also new this year is a mobile site for Scarecrow Fest, she said.

“We did that because last year on Friday night of the festival, our traditional site crashed because we had 10,000 mobile users who attempted to access and caused the site to crash,” she said. “We decided coming out with a mobile site would help lessen the traffic there, too.”

Another new addition to the fest is actual stagecoach rides, she said. A stagecoach will be in the First Street area, and for a fee people will be able to tour the area via stagecoach, she said.

There also will be two stages running entertainment “nonstop” throughout the fest.

“The daytime entertainment is primarily geared for families and youngsters and have a lot of local youth groups participating,” she said. “The evening is geared towards older folks.”

Some of the entertainment includes yoga and hula hoop demonstrations, several performances by local youth musicians, spooky stories, local dancers and martial artists.

Headlining entertainment at the Lincoln Park stage includes Wedding Banned Oct. 5, 16 Candles on Saturday and Arra on Oct. 7. The bands go on at 7:15 Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 and 4 p.m. Oct. 7. Headline acts at the Riverwalk Stage, on Main Street and Riverside Avenue, include Manic Rose tonight, Completely Dead on Oct. 6 and 24Seven on Oct. 7.

One thing that hasn’t changed — and won’t ever change — is the dedication to keeping the festival family-friendly, she said.

“That is the appeal of the entire festival,” she said. “We’re one of the alcohol-free festivals that take place in the Chicago suburbs. We really do focus on the family when we’re putting this festival together. Even when we’re bringing in new components to the festival, we’re always keeping the family in mind when we’re making plans, because we don’t want that uniqueness of the festival to go away.”

The scarecrows are obviously the main draw, and kids love to vote on their favorites. She said they thought about making the voting digital, through smart phones or kiosks, but ultimately nixed that idea.

“We decided that was one area that we didn’t want to take and make high-tech,” she said. “We wanted to maintain the paper ballots so people can come in with their families and walk with pencils and vote for their favorites. It’s just a really cool, interactive thing for families to do.”

The First Street area directly south of Main Street will appeal to children, from the wiener dog races at Canine Corner to bounce houses and face-painting. That’s where you’ll find the petting zoo and pony rides. Another fun activity will be the “make your own scarecrow” stations — after all, it is the whole point of the fest. Supplies will be provided.

“We have a Boy Scout troop that has been wonderful in collecting old clothes all year long to make sure we have a good supply of clothes for folks,” she said.

There will be lots of food vendors, with the majority of them located in Lincoln Park, she said.

“We have people who went to Scarecrow Fest as children who are now coming back with their own children,” she said.

Annie Alleman is a local free-lance writer.

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