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Scarecrow Festival bigger, better, bolder

October 19, 2011 - Grab some straw, pick out a pumpkin and find a cute costume for the family pet because the annual Scarecrow Festival is returning to downtown Oxford on Saturday, Oct. 22 from 2-6 p.m.

Organized by the Downtown Development Authority, the autumn festival promises to be bigger, better and bolder than previous years with more activities, more contests and more live entertainment.

"We've got something for everybody," said Maria Martin, the DDA's administrative assistant. "There's something for teens. There's something for kids. There's something for parents. There's something for families."

A majority of the festival fun will take place in and around beautiful Centennial Park.

The park will contain bounce houses for the kids, a pumpkin carving demonstration by John Bradshaw (see Page 23), Boy Scouts selling Christmas wreaths, a tasty chili cook-off and a shopping area that's been dubbed Artisan Alley.

Artisan Alley will consist of vendors selling custom knitwear, garden art, Turtle gloves and accessories, silkscreen Halloween T-shirts, and jewelry.

Fuel-up for all that shopping by grabbing a bowl – or two – of piping hot chili from the cook-off being conducted by the Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce from 2-6 p.m.

Local restaurants Victoria's Delights, Casa Real, Red Knapp's American Grill, 24th Street Sports Tavern, 'Wiches and the Oxford Tap will square off to see who's got the best chili in town.

Members of the public will be asked to sample them and vote for their favorite. Winners will be announced at 4:45 p.m.

The chamber will be charging $3 for two bowls or $5 for six bowls. Bowls are sample size.

The park will also be the site of some great live entertainment including the band Lipstick & Venom (playing music from the 1980s, 1990s and today) from 2-3 p.m., the acoustic guitar stylings of Jaimie Marvin from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. and the "Magical Season of Fall," a mixture of magic and trick-or-treating safety lessons put on by Eugene Clark.

For all the animal lovers out there, don't miss out on the chance to participate in – or just watch – the Howl-ween Pet Parade from 3-3:40 p.m. in the park. Pets dressed in Halloween costumes – honestly, what could be more fun?

Registration for the pet parade will take place from 2-3 p.m. Entry is free, but donations will be accepted for the Oxford-based K-9 Stray Rescue League. Free gift bags for the first 50 entries.

Prizes will be awarded for the funniest, scariest and most original costumes along with the one for the pet that most resembles its owner. Winners will be announced at 4:45 p.m.

Of course, the Scarecrow Festival just wouldn't be the same without scarecrows. That's why the park will be decorated with straw men (and women) created by Oxford students. All five elementary schools, plus the middle and high schools, are expected to make entries. Winners will be selected by a panel of judges and announced at 4:45 p.m.

Folks who enjoy the spirit of competition and creating great jack-o'-lanterns are encouraged to bring their carved pumpkins to the park from 2-3 p.m. for judging. The winner, selected by a panel of judges, will receive $50 worth of downtown shopping vouchers.

But the fun isn't just limited to Centennial Park. Down the road at 81 N. Washington St., Oxford Home Garden and Pet (next to the trail bridge) will be offering pony rides for little buckaroos.

In the parking lot immediately west of Centennial Park, the DDA will have tents set up offering crafts, pumpkin decorating, chalk art and face-painting for kids, a bake sale conducted by local churches, and a "pet zone," featuring vendors offering various pet-related products and services.

Scott's Farm Market will also be on hand selling Mums (a fall flower favorite), cornstalks, assorted produce, pumpkins, apple cider and doughnuts.

In the parking lot located south of the park, a "teen zone," sponsored by Dubz Bikes & Boards, will be set up offering ramps and obstacles for skateboards and bikes alike.

There will also be a frisbee golf demonstration put on by the American Disc Co.

"One of the things we learned from Celebrate Oxford was we didn't have enough activities for teenagers," Martin noted.

Parents are encouraged to bring their children to the festival wearing Halloween costumes, so they can trick-or-treat up and down Washington St. at participating local businesses.

For the adults, local merchants will be offering Scary Sales for two weeks following the Scarecrow Festival. Members of the public will be encouraged to enter a contest with the prize being a $300 downtown shopping spree.

During the festival, the DDA information booth in Centennial Park will offer trick-or-treat bags for grown-ups containing information about all the deals around town and a contest entry form.

For more information about the Scarecrow Festival or to register for any of the fun contests, visit www.oxfordscarecrowfestival.com.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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