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Scarecrows pop up in Costa Mesa

But don't fear the hay creations, which have started to appear as the city brings back its long-dormant festival. In fact, build your own.

August 22, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Charlene Ashendorf and Tess Bernstein, co-chairs of the 60th Anniversary Educational and Historical Programs, pose with an assortment of scarecrows. The scarecrows include replicas of Charles and Julia "Goldie" TeWinkle. A scarecrow contest will take place at on Oct. 12-13 at the Goat Hill Junction Train Station during the Pumpkin Festival.
Charlene Ashendorf and Tess Bernstein, co-chairs of… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

In recent months, they've cropped up in the darndest places — at City Hall, on the train at Goat Hill Junction Railroad, even leaning against the fence during youth baseball practice.

They may look out of place in a city whose farming days are mostly past, but the four scarecrows that have made the rounds to publicize Costa Mesa's upcoming Scarecrow Festival have a symbolic meaning as the city celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Quite a bit more than 60 years ago — from 1938 to 1941, to be exact — Costa Mesa held an annual festival for which residents built their own scarecrows, with some creating entrants out of flowers, auto parts or other oddball materials. This year, as Costa Mesa celebrates its history (and prehistory), the festival will make a return.

"We've had ties to this going way back," said Charlene Ashendorf, chairwoman of the 60th anniversary celebration's educational and historical programs committee. "So our committee felt, what a great way to really bring the community back. It's just a fun thing to have and a fun thing to do and also, agriculturally, it really just elevates our community's history."

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On Oct. 12 and 13 at Goat Hill Junction, the city will host its Scarecrow Festival, with a contest, train rides, pumpkin-painting and an antique organ display. Before then, on Aug. 29 and Sept. 7, scarecrow-making classes will take place at Creative Outlet Studios in Costa Mesa.

Participants in the classes, which cost $10 and last two hours, are invited to bring material such as fabric, sticks, bamboo, cans, bottles, pipes, string and, of course, straw for stuffing. All scarecrows deemed appropriate will be displayed at the festival.

When they go up, they'll continue a tradition that thrived in Costa Mesa until World War II swept it aside. According to Art Goddard of the Costa Mesa Historical Society, officials hit upon the Scarecrow Festival after the city suffered a series of setbacks during the 1930s: an earthquake, a flood and the Great Depression.

"In a way, Costa Mesa's answer to those challenges was, 'Let's have a party,'" Goddard said.

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