Creative Autumn: Santa Ynez Valley Scarecrows

Local shops'll do their delightful best to spotlight fall whimsy (and maybe win some honors).

SPYING A SINGLE SCARECROW... keeping watch over a field is something of a fall-sweet treat, the kind of sight that evokes cooler days and cider-scented beverages and October-y daydreams. Seeing 200 scarecrows dotting a pretty region, though, is a different story, and one that the Santa Ynez Valley tells each year come the autumn. In fact, the wine country's annual Scarecrow Fest is now such a thing around the valley that a host of businesses and groups and individuals participate in the month-long happening. That month in 2016 kicks off on Oct. 7, and wraps on Nov. 7, so you'll have a good amount of time to stroll around Buellton, and Solvang, and Los Olivos, and Ballard, and Los Alamos, and Santa Ynez to decide for yourself which figure is the most fall-like, the most fabulous, the most creative or witty. Procure a ballot, pick your favorite, and then go in search of a local glass of wine while feeling chuffed that you weighed in on a local fall tradition. Maybe the business you vote for will nab the 2016 Harvest Cup: Best in the Valley for their impressive scarecrow-building skills.

AND THOSE SCARECROWS... do run the gamut, design-wise. Some pay homage to the area's vineyard-related pursuits, some are Danish (hello, Solvang), some are pretty Halloween-oriented, and some are just as whimsical as all get-out. They add a colorful complement to the many doings of the season, including the Santa Barbara Vintners' Celebration of Wine Weekend and the Halloween street fairs and haunted houses that have become beloved go-tos for local ghost fans. Hundreds of scarecrows up the autumn-o-sity, in short, and we daytrippers to the area are invited to give our two cents on what makes a marvelous hay-filled, hat-wearing icon of fall.

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