Crows beware: The scarecrows are coming

Development Director Paul Karasik, left, explained the process to participants Steve and Donna Wesley with Morticia from last year. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Anyone who has been on Martha’s Vineyard in the fall has probably noticed all kinds of different scarecrows set up outside of various businesses, but they might not be aware of where the colorful creations come from or who makes them.

As it turns out, they are part of a project, now in its 12th year, organized by the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.

“The scarecrows are a fundraiser, of sorts,” says Paul Karasik, the Development Director at the school, who also provides assistance and technical advice on the project. “It raises some money for the school, but mostly its a ‘fun-raiser,’ because at this time of year on Martha’s Vineyard, things can get a little dreary. The summer’s over; the leaves are turning, and we feel that this is our school’s way of contributing to picking everyone’s spirits up a little bit by sending some color around and making these lively scarecrows for the fall season.”

Each year, Mr. Karasik comes up with a different theme for how the scarecrows should be designed. This year he decided on a literary theme.

“We’ve done this theme before,” he said. “It’s been very popular and very successful because you can have characters from ‘Harry Potter’ to ‘Charlotte’s Web.'”

The first steps towards building this year’s scarecrows began this past Sunday, Oct. 16, with a workshop at the Charter School.

“We found that if we provided a scarecrow workshop it gives a lot of people the opportunity to get some supplies and get going on their scarecrow,” Mr. Karasik said. “I have a bunch of clothes that we got from the Dumptique in West Tisbury that are ready to get cracked open and turned into scarecrows somehow. Sometimes you get your inspiration from just looking at the clothes. You get a sailor suit and suddenly you think Ahab. Usually, people come with ideas, but when they see the clothes their ideas morph into something else. We then give people some tips on how to construct the scarecrow so that they’re sturdy and they last long. It’s guaranteed that every year, sometime during the week that the scarecrows are up, there will be a rain storm. The number one rule of scarecrow building is to build them sturdy.”

Once the scarecrows are assembled, they are sent off to local businesses, who contribute a fee of $75 per scarecrow.

“So far, I think I’ve got about 60 stores contributing,” he said. “We just got a bunch of more orders last week, and once the stores have them displayed, other stores will start calling to say that they want a scarecrow too. I often end up building several scarecrows myself.”

Although many of the scarecrows are built by those directly involved with the Charter School, it is not limited to just them. Anyone can build one if they would like to get into the Halloween spirit while also helping out the school.

“We’re going to need some scarecrow builders,” Mr. Karasik continued. “Plus, if you build a scarecrow, your name goes into a drawing, and the grand prize this year is a brand new iPad. So if you want to build a scarecrow early next week, I’m going to pull a name on Thursday, so there’s still time to sign up to build.

“You don’t have to be a super artist to build a scarecrow. You just have to have an idea.”

The first wave of scarecrows can be seen outside of local businesses beginning on October 22.

“The cool thing is to walk down Main Street on Friday, and it just looks like another fall day on Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. “Then you come back on Saturday, the 22nd, and suddenly these scarecrows have sprouted up all over the place. It’s remarkable: Suddenly there’s scarecrows!”

For more information, call Paul at 508-693-4059.

Jason Roth is from Scranton, Penn. where he worked for the Scranton Post and the Stroud Courier. He now lives in Oak Bluffs.