Scarecrow Invasion Charms Downtown Key Center

The annual public art installation is a blend of popular nostalgia and artistic ingenuity.


"Bob Ross — Colors of the KP” by the Yankee Clipper Barber Shop won first place. All photos David Zeigler, KP News

In late September, scarecrows invaded Key Center, sparking nostalgia among locals who have enjoyed the annual Key Center Scarecrow Contest for years.

“I love seeing them all and seeing all the community spirit,” said Vaughn Postmaster DeeDee Emmett.

The Key Peninsula community’s sense of humor and creativity came through in this year’s entries, which included scarecrows inspired by Bob Ross, Willie Nelson, Salvador Dali and Greta Thunberg. Outside Blend Wine Shop, “An Older Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, drinking a glass of wine,” welcomed visitors to the 2019 Farm Tour.

“My favorite is the Gnosh truck one,” Emmett said, “but I love them all.”

Smiling in jeans and boots, biking home with her food truck lunch, Gnosh’s long-haired, jack-o-lantern-headed tricycle rider included signage for points of interest, including “Devils Head — 13 miles.”

“We were trying to do ‘recycle’ as our theme,” said Gnosh food truck owner Stephanie Brooks, explaining how she and her team, Jennifer Wherry and Heidi Michaelson, worked together, bringing clothing, cornstalks, flowers and veggies from home. “I painted the signs. We bought the wig from Angel Guild.

“One dollar and 50 cents. That’s all we spent,” Michaelson said.

The scarecrows stayed up through October and 192 votes for the contest were cast at the Key Center Food Market ballot box.

The winner was “Bob Ross — Colors of the KP,” which beat “Gnosh Scarecrow” by only one vote. The Yankee Clipper Barber Shop received $175 for first prize. Gnosh received a $75 second-place prize.

“Captain Cake” came in third, winning $50 for the Angel Guild. Made by local artist Julianne Kohn of Sound Shores Studio, “Captain Cake” is a giant “Stash Bot” with a hidden compartment in his hat made from a cake pan.

Preschooler Mia Cabrini Martinez, age 4, of Lakebay enjoyed playing the “I spy” game with the 16 scarecrows, 13 of which were included in the contest. Mia would chant, “I spy with my little eye,” again and again as she counted each scarecrow, trying to find them all each time she visited Key Center.

“They’re funny!” she said.

Two Waters Arts Alliance submitted the Addams Family-inspired scarecrow, “Cousin Itt’s Self Portrait,” made by Sharla Schuller and her daughter Riley, a junior at Peninsula High School.

“For many years our whole family has loved seeing the scarecrows pop up in Key Center. We were really excited to be able to participate this year,” Schuller said. “My husband, Chris, came up with the great idea for using a bucket filled with concrete with a steel pole to make him not topple over. We then used a tomato cage, some chicken wire and weed fabric to give him the basic shape and plastic grass table skirts wrapped around for his hair. It was a fun project for the three of us to do.”

The Key Center Scarecrow Contest was started in 2012 by local artist Beverly Pedersen. This year’s contest was organized by four-time contest winner Kathy Lyons of Lakebay, who encouraged local businesses, organizations, individuals and families to participate.

“I enjoy making them every year,” said Lyons. “It’s an adventure, really a fun thing to do.”

The first scarecrow Lyons made for the contest was “Hay Bale Square Pants” in 2014.

“Sponge Bob was everybody’s favorite at the time,” Lyons said of her first contest winner, made from a full bale of straw that “went back into the chicken pen.”

This year Lyons made “Willie Nelson,” who held a guitar and welcomed passersby with an “On the road again to Farm Tour” sign.

“We feel like the bar was raised this year. It’d be so fun to have even more,” Lyons said. “Start early. Get your idea. And start collecting things for next year.”