SEARSPORT, Maine — Although the town was chock-full Saturday of parade-watchers, Shriner clowns and jack-o’-lanterns, something was conspicuously absent: crows.
That’s because one crucial element of the 11th annual Fling Into Fall festival is the scarecrow, and the straw-stuffed creations were found on every telephone pole and took top billing in a contest at the Penobscot Marine Museum Park on Main Street.
Festival attendees wandered through the park, choosing their favorites among such creations as Hamilton Marine’s clam-digging scarecrow, Wizard of Oz scarecrows from Anglers Restaurant and the nurse scarecrow from the Women’s Fellowship of the First Congregational Church.
And who could forget the chilling “How a Maine deer gets its revenge” scarecrow from Boy Scout Troop 215 in Searsport. That one featured a deer watching over a cauldron with a scarecrow Boy Scout slumped inside.
It was almost enough to put one off venison stew.
“They’re all cute in their own way,” said James Lott of Friendship, who hadn’t planned to stop at Fling Into Fall. “We were surprised to see it and happy that it’s here.”
Rita Huddleston of Searsport, the founder and one of the organizers of the festival, said that while attendance Friday night was down because of the rain, Saturday’s crowds made her happy. The festival closed Saturday night with a fireworks display in Mosman Park.
“Today, we’re doing fine,” she said. “The parade was great. It’s the same old-time, small-town festival.”
One thing new this year was the sight of 25 artists scattered around Searsport, painting, photographing and even sculpting what they saw. The artists came from as far away as Bangor, Stonington and Blue Hill, said Katie Curtis of the Penobscot Marine Museum, and the art created was to be displayed Saturday afternoon and then sold in a silent auction with at least half of the proceeds benefiting the museum.
“We call it ‘Paint the Town,’” Curtis said. “The response from the artists has been overwhelming, and local businesses have really stepped up, too.”
Businesses donated free bag lunches, coffee and coupons to the artists.
Artists Celene Farris of Morrill, the owner of Belfast’s Working Art Gallery, and Brenda Haley of Waldo used oil paints to capture the white-steepled church that is part of the museum and the technicolor autumn leaves nearby.
“Are you copying each other?” teased a man driving by in a pickup truck.
“It’s paint by numbers, but don’t tell anyone,” Farris joked back.
As the women daubed paint on their canvases, they talked about the experience of painting outdoors, or plein air.
“We’ve been painting outside all summer long, trying to catch the light,” Farris said. “It’s interesting to see how people see things differently.”
Another popular activity, especially among the younger set, was the hayride in a horse-drawn wagon.
William Tripp, 7, of Stockton Springs said his favorite part of the festival was getting a chance to sit close to the horses.
“I got to pet them,” he said. “They’re soft.”
William’s mom, Natasha Paradise, said she was glad they came.
“We’re just going to walk around and enjoy the family time,” she said.