As autumn festivities across the Central Coast are being canceled due to a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases and deaths, at least one San Luis Obispo County event remains on the calendar.
Cambria’s Scarecrow Festival is still scheduled to take place in October. which runs from Oct. 1-31.
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 Sept. 1, organizers announced that they were postponing cycling event Eroica California, originally scheduled to return to the North Coast in mid-September.
“The reasons for this decision are, we believe, clear and robust to protect the participants and guests … as well as the citizens of Cambria, Cayucos and San Simeon” against coronavirus pandemic, organizers wrote in an email. “This event is meant to live special moments full of friendship and good wine. Strict compliance with health protocols … would profoundly distort this experience.”
Eroica California is now tentatively rescheduled for April 29 through May 1, 2022. Those who registered for 2021 will be automatically registered to participate in 2022, organizers said.
The Cambria Chamber of Commerce pulled the plug on its popular Chili Cook Off, scheduled for Oct. 16, “due to our concerns with a crowd of unmasked chili tasters and the likelihood that some attendees may be unvaccinated,” board president Mel McColloch wrote in the chamber’s September newsletter.
Although the cook-off is held outdoors at the Pinedorado grounds, crowds often gather close together.
The chamber’s car show is still expected to happen on Oct. 16, McColloch said.
What’s in store for Cambria Scarecrow Festival?
Unlike other events where people tend to cluster together in confined areas, the Scarecrow Festival invites attendees to stay in their own small groups as they walk or drive throughout Cambria and San Simeon to see the displays, organizers said.
Scarecrow Festival organizers say they’re minimizing the number of sculptures and displays on sidewalks, to help maintain social distancing and avoid conflicting with restaurant parklets.
Volunteers will be masked, and if they’re sick, they’re required to stay home.
During the runup to the Scarecrow Festival, “We asked our volunteers not to come to the studio, storage units or be at our workshop if they weren’t vaccinated,” said Christine Fischer, a vice president on the festival board of directors.
Although some of the scarecrow sculptures this year will be scattered throughout town, most of this year’s exhibits will be concentrated in designated, themed exhibitions in Cambria and San Simeon. They’ll be set up in areas that provide more space for the creations to spread out.
The festival plans have been reviewed and approved by the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.
Scarecrows on display at North Coast spots
Some of this year’s new scarecrows are small, maybe 3 or 4 feet high, but they’ll be mounted on tall poles that allow 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 phantasms will be vastly different, according to scarecrow building maven Terri Pilot.
She heads up the Scarecrow Festival’s Dr. Crow unit, that spends months repairing, reusing, redoing and revamping sculptures from previous festivals. They’re kept at the festival’s six Village Lane storage units, but The organizers are always on the hunt for more storage space, she said.
Fischer said that all the creations are made with recycled materials.
“Most of the bodies are stuffed with recycled shrink wrap that we get from Costco, rather than having all that taken to the dump,’ she said. “Old grocery store bags are used, as are donated, used bed sheets.”
This year, a few individual sculptures are massive — such as the 14-foot kraken sea monster that Fischer is making, or the life-sized version of Pippi Longstocking’s horse created by Cheryl Raiter and Dianna Clark.
Many others are in the 6- to 9-foot-tall range, such as Pilot’s whimsical “Billy Bob Bee Boy.”
The large multi-sculpture exhibits will include a wide variety of topics and themes. Festival board president Paulla Ufferheide created a tribute to first responders on Cambria Drive, while Fischer helped make a massive pirate scene complete with a sinking pirate ship and the aforementioned sea monster at the large empty lot next to the Old Cambria Marketplace/Shell Station.
Other exhibits, their locations and their creator/coordinators are:
• Day of the Dead, Pinedorado Grounds, Lesley Hochschild;
• Story Time, on the lot by San Simeon Beach Bar & Grill, Mary Nixo and Amy Marshall;
• Noah’s tiny ark with giant animals, mid-village on Main Street, Tigg Morales;
• Musical Movie/Día de Muertos, Pinedorado grounds, Lesley Hochschild; and
• Art Movements Throughout History, Cambria Center for the Arts at the Old Grammar School.
Educator teaches workshop inspired by art history
The Art Movements display, according to scarecrow workshop leader Art Sherwyn, will also provide viewers with a learning experience that includes elements of art and history. He’s been an art teacher for 38 years.
Sherwyn, who splits his time between homes in Cambria and Bakersfield, brought his educational experiences to Cambria Scarecrow Festival workshops held in June and August. It was his fifth workshop series for the festival.
“All I really had to do was just get them started,” Art Sherwyn said of his students. “Right away, they started popping with great ideas.
“My goal, always, is to give them the foundation, lead them to the gate, open the gate and let them go,” he explained. “In the greatest creative art lessons, you give everybody the same information, let them go, and they’ll each come back with something different.”
Sherwyn’s first workshop taught the artists how to create more lifelike faces on the scarecrows. The next year, workshop attendees learned how to make masks for heads of the creatures, some of which were so successful that they will be on display again this year.
The third workshop theme was extra ambitious.
“I told them, ‘Let’s work with the wind,’ ” a factor that can often be an challenge during the month-long fest, Sherwyn said.
Those kinetic creations were based on a whirligig principle, designed to be artistic no matter which way the breeze tossed the artworks. They were based on effects created by sculptor Alexander Calder and other artists specializing in motion-oriented art, he said.
Maintaining the moveable sculptures all month that year “was tough,” the 71-year-old teacher said. “We underestimated the wind and overestimated the materials.”
This year, Sherwyn’s lessons were based on the techniques and trendsetting designs of famed artists of the past.
The coronavirus pandemic prevented a planned 2020 workshop, but this year’s workshop made up for the pause, he said.
The 2021 classes took attendees “through art history, from cave art to impressionism, realism, pop art, all the different styles through the years,” the teacher explained. “Each student would select a time they liked, and then we created scarecrows to reflect the styles of the time.”
“They’re fabulous,” Sherwyn said of the scarecrows. “We have an Escher piece, psychedelic art, surrealism, modern art, a couple of cave art pieces that are just fantastic. A lady (Pam Langfeld) did one based on the art of Georgia O’Keefe, with the head based on one of O’Keefe’s skulls from the desert and the hand holding a big, red, handmade flower.”
“Mine is cubist,” he explained, based on the styles of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, “with angled wood pieces, painted as Picasso would, really intense colors outlined in black to make those colors really pop.”
Coinciding with the Scarecrow Festival, artworks by Sherwyn and his daughter, Liz Sherwyn, are on display through the month of October at the Cambria Center for the Arts gallery, 1350 Main St. in Cambria.
The scarecrows will be celebrated at an outdoor Salute to Scarecrows event at the Cambria Pines Nursery on Oct. 30. Tickets cost $40, and include music, a costume contest and tastings of restaurant food, wines, ciders and beer; they’re available for purchase at cambriascarecrows.com/events.