Summer’s end can feel bittersweet, but a visit to the Scarecrow Fest in Delavan, Wisconsin, is a perfect way to appreciate the upcoming delights of autumn.
Now in its 21st year, the festival celebrates all things fall, with free pumpkin decorating, children’s crafts, a petting zoo, continuous live music from the Sonic Boomers and others, an artisan and craft fair and fantastic food (don’t miss the rice balls from Isola.eats, advises Caroline Carbonara, the integrated marketing manager at Visit Delavan).
The Scarecrow Fest takes place on Saturday, September 18 beginning at 10 a.m. and the scarecrows stay up until Oct. 1.
While there’s lots to see, do and taste, the main attractions, of course, are the 35 or so creatively decorated scarecrows that adorn four blocks of Delavan’s adorable downtown area.
With its brick-lined streets, hanging flower baskets and American flags, the picturesque city center is the perfect backdrop for a casual stroll or elaborate special event, says Carbonara.
“It is such a beautiful and well-preserved historic background, a quaint little blast from the past. And it really comes alive with all the scarecrows lining the streets,” she says.
Some 5,000 people, many who travel from nearby Illinois, are expected to enjoy the festival. COVID-19 safety precautions include hand-sanitizing stations and social distancing guidelines. “It’s still front of mind for us to keep everyone safe,” Carbonara says. “Everything is held outdoors unless people want to go inside the shops and restaurants.”
Shopping, food and fun
That will be hard to resist because Delavan is a shopper’s dream, with dozens of specialty stores, boutiques, galleries and antique stores, as well as an eclectic assortment of places to eat and drink.
Your kids will love the 17 glorious murals painted by the Walldogs — a group of highly skilled muralists and sign painters who created the works in 2015 — that depict the city’s history. They can be viewed via a self-guided walking tour or during an organized outing hosted by the Delavan Historical Society.
What’s your favorite scarecrow?
Festival visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite scarecrows through their smart devices or by paper ballot and can even get in on the action by crafting their own scarecrows at the designated building station — or by buying a DIY kit to take home. Making a scarecrow should be on every family’s fall bucket list.
Among last year’s winners were an elaborate lion and the popular character Forky from Toy Story 4.
Located 20 minutes from the Illinois border, 10 minutes from popular Lake Geneva and just a 45-minute drive from Milwaukee, Delavan has carefully preserved its heritage, which dates back more than a century.
The P.T. Barnum Circus was founded here in 1871 and the town eventually became the winter home of more than 25 circuses. It’s also been a thriving art colony and remains a top spot for recreation along scenic Delavan Lake.
Accommodations in Delavan range from independent motels to waterfront resorts and charming bed-and-breakfast establishments. Whether making a weekend of it or just coming for the day, festival-goers appreciate the free, abundant and hassle-free parking.
“It’s the perfect family-friendly event,” says Carbonara of the festival, “and just such a fun way to kick off the fall.”
Learn more about the Scarecrow Fest and visiting scenic Delavan at VisitDelavan.com, or call (262) 728-6000.