The Sweet ‘n Surreal Scarecrows of Solvang

The town's fourth annual contest is ready to get decorating.

CINEMATIC SCARECROWS: Do those hay-stuffed figures that are placed in fields to keep fowl and fauna out ever appear on screen? You bet. Scarecrows have been a device in books and movies since the invention of scarecrows themselves. Sometimes they're a bit spooky, as the "scare" in their name suggests, and sometimes they're there simply to add folksy atmosphere. Of course, they occasionally dance and wish for brains, too, meaning we'll likely always be sweet on scarecrows, dancing and otherwise. But it isn't just farmers who set them out, year after year: Some cities do, too, and Solvang is a famous one. Well, make that Solvang and the nearby communities of Buellton, Santa Ynez, Los Alamos, and Los Olivos. These wine-countrified towns do not set out the hay-packed figures to scare off crows that might bother the grapes. Rather, there is a month-long display and contest that goes down, and local businesses jump into the creative fun, fully and with a sense of fantasy.

SO... you might see a pizza scarecrow in front of a pizza parlor -- Tower Pizza made one last year -- and you might see wine corks dotting a wine bar's entry. In short? No one is simply grabbing an old checkered shirt and stuffing it. This is largest part to please fall visitors, of which the area has many, and to also win the the Scarecrow Fest Contest. Meaning that participants bring it, as in bring the creativity, charm, and surreal scarecrowian whimsy.

THE DATES: Scarecrowfest is on from Thursday, Oct. 11 through Monday, Nov. 11. A number of autumn-nice to-dos are happening around the Santa Ynez Valley during that run, including a Fairie Fest, a haunted house, and wine- and art-focused happenings. But be sure to take a stroll through Solvang and the other villages to admire and eek over the scarecrows standing guard in front of various stores and restaurants. And, yep, you can vote on favorites in a number of categories, including Most Humorous and Best Use of Recycled Materials.

It's a charming way to greet the season, and, nope: No cornfield required.

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