Scarecrow festival born in lockdown ‘has brought village community together’
Two women from Wales, who placed scarecrows outside their homes during lockdown to “make people laugh”, have gone on to create annual scarecrow-related events to “bring the community together”.
Long-time friends Louise Henson, 56, and Lizzy Heritage, 49, originally from England, are now known as “the scarecrow ladies” in their village of Llysfaen, and over the last week, they have held their annual scarecrow festival and competition.
The tradition started during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, when Ms Heritage, Ms Henson, and their neighbours decided to place scarecrows outside their houses to “try to make people laugh”.
Since then, they have gone on to hold a series of scarecrow-related events in the village, such as the annual festival, a Halloween scare-fest, and a yearly Christmas fair, which they say has made people “proud of their village” and has become something of a tourist attraction.
“We’ve found that there are lonely people in our community, and I think we’ve managed to help them and to give them a bit of a sense of purpose,” Ms Heritage told the PA news agency.
“The feeling people have now is the feeling they had 40 or 50 years ago, where people didn’t have social media and they got out to talk to their neighbours.
“It’s actually brought the community together through laughter and giggles.
“We have people say that it actually makes them come out of the house to see the scarecrows.
“Everybody has become proud of their village.”
After placing the scarecrows outside of their homes in October 2020, news spread via word of mouth and on social media, with Ms Henson saying: “Before we knew it, it was like the M6 down here.”
When they heard people in the village talking about the scarecrows, Ms Henson, Ms Heritage and their neighbours decided to do it again at Christmas and then again in the summer.
Scarecrow-related festivities have also appeared for the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Coronation of King Charles, and Ms Henson and Ms Heritage also hold craft workshops throughout the year for local children.
The scarecrow festival this year, which runs from July 8 to 16, has seen 85 entries for the competition, some with three or four scarecrows in each scene.
The winner of the competition is gifted a box of beer from the local brewery, with about 10 tractors driving to the winner’s house to present the prize, and the children at the local school are all given rosettes and certificates for taking part.
Some of the figures from this year’s scarecrow festival include King Charles and Queen Camilla, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Mary Poppins, Vincent van Gogh with a painting station to match, and Cledwyn’s Kiosk from I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, as Gwrych Castle, home to the ITV show for two years, is close to Llysfaen.
Ms Henson and Ms Heritage explained that the money raised from the events goes back into the community, from helping their local youth club, church, and school, to providing cakes for their warm hub and community cafe.
Last year’s Halloween scare-fest, which was held at Ms Heritage’s five-acre property, saw 900 people in attendance and raised £3,000 for the village.
The event features live actors, often including Ms Heritage and Ms Henson, as well as creepy scarecrows to mark the occasion.
Ms Henson, originally from Northamptonshire, said that the events have also helped herself and Ms Heritage to integrate with the community.
“We’re very integrated in the community now, just from scarecrows, and I think we’re putting on 11 events this year.”
Ms Heritage added: “We’ve tried to diversify, really.
“And I think we’ve included every section of the community, in the cases of the young, right through to the old.
“It’s been lovely, it’s a really nice feeling that we’ve been able to do this.”
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