Since ancient days, scarecrows have startled away flocks of hungry birds and other food-seeking critters from fields of corn and other crops.
In the village of Whitehouse, a slew of scarecrows — plumped and pumped with personality — draw potential customers to the downtown business district.
In this season of jack-o'-lanterns, hayrides, costume contests, and other such activities, the homemade characters delight and amuse (except at night when under the street lights, the life-sized scarecrows are, well, scary at first glance).
For certain, these scarecrows are best viewed up close and personal. Take a walk along the downtown sidewalks for an informal meet-and-greet.
Village employee Brad Burkhart introduced the idea after seeing a similar project in a Michigan community.
On his own time he has fashioned frameworks for the seasonal mannequins, said Barbara Knisely, community development coordinator, who made faces as she worked on the project ... painted eyes, stitched-looking lips.
Then nearly 20 businesses and a couple of schools each brought out their creativity, coupled with clever clothing and props.
Louann Artiaga, owner of Spring Valley Business Solutions, fashioned a criminal decoy: Al Capone dressed in orange prison garb, handcuffs dangling.
His friendly message: Don't Mess with the IRS.
This beefy law-breaker looks as though he consumed too many prison cafeteria carbs. Actually, he was overstuffed, and as Mrs. Artiaga dressed the dummy, “I broke his arm off.” She noted the real life criminal was convicted of tax evasion. Stenciled on the back of the scarecrow's jumpsuit: GOTBUSTED PENITENTIARY.
Whitehouse's scarecrows help “people notice we have businesses in town,” she said.
Many scarecrows' outfits include business logos, taking the guesswork out of who is who.
One question mark: Who is the dapper man in front of the Peinert-Dunn Funeral Home? A corpse? A mourner?
Actually, the garden guard is dressed as Angie Peinert Weber's father, funeral director Bob Peinert, sporting a double-breasted suit, burgundy shirt, and a handsome accent tie. A patriotic scarecrow, an American flag is tucked in his arm.
A suggestion to create the funeral home's scarecrow as a frightening-looking zombie was quickly rejected, opting for a professional-looking scarecrow to represent the respected local business, funeral director Mrs. Peinert Weber said.
And this is Whitehouse, not Oz. No scarecrows dance, sing, or amble down a Yellow Brick Road in search of a brain.
Speaking of body parts: One scarecrow is campaigning to save, um, to save the pumpkins, according to the message on a sign attached to a broom. Bedecked with pink ribbons showing support for breast cancer research, this lady mannequin features a couple of Double D pumpkins squashed into a pink shirt with plunging neckline.
One of the most recognizable scarecrows: Flo. With black hair, blue pants, a white apron, Progressive tags, she looks like the lady who pitches Progressive in TV ads. Apparently she can predict harsh weather coming: she sports a heavy pair of oatmeal-colored gloves. In the Diversified Insurance Service office, longtime Whitehouse resident Bob Keogh is an agent and a scarecrow fan.
“I like them. I like anything the village can do to attract people downtown,” he said, noting the village's recent emphasis on decorative banners to dress up the community's business district.
Scarecrows aren't just along the town's main drag. In front of the fire station, 10550 Waterville St., a scarecrow dressed in full gear climbs a ladder as though assisting at a fire scene.
In the downtown area, a briefcase-carrying business man (we won't, we won't call him a stuffed shirt) stands silent sentry in front of First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Delta. With a fistful of straw in the pocket of a red-striped, button-down collared shirt, a boutonniere made of mums and orange, green, and bronze leaves, a Hunt Club tie, black cap, and burlap-covered face, he's handsome with silk flower eyes, a pine cone nose, and a berry-nice smile.
A buff guy, who obviously spends a lot of time at the Anthony Wayne 24 Hour Fitness Center, is dressed in red shorts, gray sweat pants, and blue shirt from the business. Muscles bulge from cardboard arms. (A red bandana to keep sweat out of the body builder's eyes ... nice touch.)
Decked in a Garcia Surveyors Inc. safety-green shirt, black suspenders, jeans, a reddish-orange cap, work gloves, a black sweatshirt, and safety glasses, this scarecrow grabs attention with his top-to-toe outfit. Besides, he's one of the larger scarecrows.
With blonde curls, a black feathery boa around her neck, and hair clips askew on her work outfit, a pretty, trendy lady scarecrow, created by Inspire Salon & Spa, is one of the more life-like seasonal accents.
Taking part in the scarecrow project was never a question mark for the business. “We though it would be really good for our business and a fun way to get involved in the community event,” said co-owner Danielle Thober of Custar.
Ms. Knisely is aiming for 20 scarecrows this year, and double that in 2014. The village will remove the clothing and store the frames. Plans are under way to reuse the wooden forms as part of the Whitehouse Winterfest celebration on Feb. 15. Businesses will be given the opportunity to dress them as snowmen, penguins, or polar bears. Or perhaps Jack Frost.
From a few, came many. Several more scarecrows have come to life and are out and about in the downtown area.
Scarecrows will hang around the town until decorations go up for the next holiday.
Whitehouse is about 20 miles from Toledo, as the crow flies.
Contact Janet Romaker at: email@example.com or 419-724-6006.