As fall festivities on the Central Coast are canceled due to a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases and deaths, at least one San Luis Obispo County event remains on the calendar.
Cambria Scarecrow Festival must always take place in October. which runs from October 1 to 31.
Coronavirus concerns have canceled or postponed several fall events familiar to local residents, including the Big Sur Jade Festival, the Arroyo Grande Harvest Festival and Pinedorado and the Central Coast Carvers woodcarving show in Cambria.
On September 1, organizers announced they were postponing the Eroica California cycling event, which was originally scheduled to return to the North Coast in mid-September.
“The reasons for this decision are, in our view, clear and sound to protect attendees and guests … as well as the citizens of Cambria, Cayucos and San Simeon” from the coronavirus pandemic, organizers wrote in an email. “This event is made to experience privileged moments marked by friendship and good wine. Strict compliance with health protocols (…) would profoundly distort this experience.”
Eroica California is now tentatively postponed from April 29 to May 1, 2022. Those who registered for 2021 will automatically be registered to participate in 2022, organizers said.
The Cambria Chamber of Commerce has ended its popular Chili Cook Off, scheduled for October 16, “due to our concerns about a crowd of unmasked chili tasters and the likelihood that some attendees may not be vaccinated,” wrote board chairman Mel McColloch in the chamber’s September newsletter.
Although the cooking takes place outdoors on the grounds of Pinedorado, crowds often gather against each other.
The chamber auto show is still scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, McColloch said.
What does the Cambria Scarecrow Festival have in store for us?
Unlike other events where people tend to congregate in confined areas, the Scarecrow Festival invites attendees to stay in their own small groups as they walk or drive through Cambria and San Simeon to see the exhibits, organizers said.
Scarecrow festival organizers say they are minimizing the number of sidewalk sculptures and displays, to help maintain social distancing and avoid conflicts with restaurant parklets.
Volunteers will be masked and if they are sick they are required to stay home.
During the preparation for the Scarecrow Festival, “We asked our volunteers not to come to the studio, storage units or our workshop if they were not vaccinated”, said Christine Fischer, vice- president of the board of directors of the festival.
While some of this year’s scarecrow sculptures are scattered throughout the city, most of this year’s exhibits will be concentrated in designated themed exhibits in Cambria and San Simeon. They will be set up in spaces offering more space for the dissemination of creations.
Plans for the festival have been reviewed and approved by the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.
Scarecrows on display at North Coast sites
Some of this year’s new scarecrows are small, maybe 3 or 4 feet tall, but they will be mounted on tall poles that allow the elements of the artwork to flow in the breeze.
The concept is the same as 2020’s ghost installations, but the overall effects of this year’s fantasies will be very different, according to scarecrow building maven Terri Pilot.
She leads the Scarecrow Festival’s Dr. Crow Unit, which spends months repairing, reusing, remaking, and rearranging sculptures from previous festivals. They are kept in the festival’s six Village Lane storage units, but organizers are still looking for more storage space, she said.
Fischer said all designs are made with recycled materials.
“Most of the bodies are stuffed with recycled shrink wrap that we get from Costco, rather than putting it all in the landfill,” she said. “Old grocery bags are used, as are used bed sheets.”
This year, a few individual sculptures are massive — like the 14-foot kraken sea monster Fischer makes, or the life-size version of Pippi Longstocking’s horse created by Cheryl Raiter and Dianna Clark.
Many others stand between 6 and 9 feet tall, like Pilot’s whimsical “Billy Bob Bee Boy”.
The large multi-sculpture exhibitions will include a wide variety of subjects and themes. Festival board chair Paulla Ufferheide paid tribute to first responders on Cambria Drive, while Fischer helped create a massive pirate scene with a sinking pirate ship and the aforementioned sea monster on the large empty lot next to Old Cambria/Shell Station market.
The other exhibits, their locations and their creators/coordinators are:
• Day of the Dead, Pinedorado Grounds, Lesley Hochschild;
• Story Time, on the ground by the San Simeon Beach Bar & Grill, Mary Nixo and Amy Marshall;
• Noah’s Little Ark with giant animals, in the middle of the village on Main Street, Tigg Morales;
• Musical film/Día de Muertos, Pinedorado land, Lesley Hochschild; and
• Art Movements Through History, Cambria Center for the Arts at the Old Grammar School.
An educator gives a workshop inspired by the history of art
The Art Movements exhibit, according to Scarecrow Workshop leader Art Sherwyn, will also provide viewers with a learning experience that includes elements of art and history. He has been an art teacher for 38 years.
Sherwyn, who splits her time between homes in Cambria and Bakersfield, brought her educational experiences to Cambria Scarecrow Festival workshops held in June and August. This was her fifth series of workshops for the festival.
“All I really had to do was get them going,” Art Sherwyn said of his students. “Right away, they started springing up with good ideas.
“My goal, always, is to give them the basics, lead them out the door, open the door and let them go,” he explained. “In the best creative art lessons, you give everyone the same information, let them go, and everyone will come back with something different.”
Sherwyn’s first workshop taught artists how to create more realistic faces on scarecrows. The following year, workshop attendees learned to make masks for the creatures’ heads, some of which were so successful that they will be on display again this year.
The third theme of the workshop was very ambitious.
“I told them, ‘Let’s work with the wind,'” a factor that can often be a challenge during the month-long festival, Sherwyn said.
These kinetic creations were based on a swirl principle, designed to be artistic regardless of the direction in which the breeze stirred the works. They were based on effects created by sculptor Alexander Calder and other artists specializing in movement-based art, he said.
Maintaining the mobile sculptures all month that year “was difficult”, said the 71-year-old teacher. “We underestimated the wind and overestimated the materials.”
This year, Sherwyn’s lessons were based on the avant-garde techniques and designs of famous artists of the past.
The coronavirus pandemic prevented a planned workshop in 2020, but this year’s workshop made up for the break, he said.
The 2021 classes took participants “through art history, from rock art to impressionism, to realism, to pop art, all different styles over the years,” explained the teacher. “Each student would choose a moment they liked, then we created scarecrows to reflect the styles of the time.”
“They’re fabulous,” Sherwyn said of the scarecrows. “We have a work of Escher, psychedelic art, surrealism, modern art, some rock art that is just fantastic. A lady (Pam Langfeld) made one based on art by Georgia O’Keefe, with the head based on one of O’Keefe’s skulls from the desert and the hand holding a large handmade red flower .
“Mine is cubist,” he explained, based on the styles of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, “with angled pieces of wood, painted like Picasso would, really intense colors outlined in black to bring out those colors really.”
Coinciding with the Scarecrow Festival, works by Sherwyn and her daughter, Liz Sherwyn, are on display throughout October at the Cambria Center for the Arts Gallery, 1350 Main St. in Cambria.
Scarecrows will be celebrated at an outdoor Scarecrow Tribute event at the Cambria Pines Nursery on October 30. Tickets are $40 and include music, a costume contest, and tastings of restaurant food, wine, cider, and beer; they are available for purchase on cambriascarecrows.com/events.