CHATHAM — People got a chance to learn how to build scarecrows in the show ring at the Columbia County Fairgrounds on Sunday from a two-time winner of a scarecrow contest.
Mike DiMisa, of Ghent, has been teaching the workshop for six years after entering his work into the Scarecrow Contest held during the Columbia County Fair for 15 years, he said. DiMisa would come in second and third place, and refined his technique by using wood and straw, which led to him winning first-place prizes, he said. Scarecrow Contest Superintendent Melinda Kerner asked DiMisa if he would be interested in hosting the workshop after his wins.
“I came in first place, best of show for two years in a row,” DiMisa said. “That’s when Melinda [Kerner] asked me to do the workshop and to bow out of the contest.”
People who come to the workshop are interested in the craftsmanship of making a scarecrow and building one to compete in the contest held over Labor Day weekend, DiMisa said.
“We definitely want them to enter the contest,” DiMisa said. “We like to see that creativity at the fair.”
DiMisa, a builder by trade, finds using wood is a much sturdier and easier way to make scarecrows, and has created pieces such as a spider and a creature known as The Swamp Thing, he said.
“The legs hung over the sides of the pickup truck,” DiMisa said of his spider creation. “I found other techniques, like sticks from the woods, to be more difficult, and they split more easily.”
The scarecrow building process takes time and participants should have an idea of how they want their scarecrows to pose, DiMisa said. Once the frame is ready, the straw is added to the model, which DiMisa said is more free flowing. Participants used string to hold the straw in place.
“It takes a little bit of trial and error to get the arms and the legs in the positions that you want,” DiMisa said. “If you know what you want then we’ve got to find that pose and use our own bodies as sort of the example.”
The workshop appeals to children and adults, and all of Sunday’s participants were novices in building scarecrows, DiMisa said. DiMisa brings the wooden materials and Kerner brings the straw, allowing the workshop to be free for participants.
“It’s just stuff that I have lying around, then I just prep everything in my spare time,” DiMisa said.
One of DiMisa’s scarecrows has stood for a year and another lasted two before being dismantled.
“At that point I started to cannibalize them, so to speak, to reuse the parts,” DiMisa said.
Kerner, who was building a pirate scarecrow with her 13-year-old nephew Normando Mason, appreciates the creativity people bring to their scarecrows. Throughout the years of the Scarecrow Contest, Kerner has never seen two scarecrows that were alike, she said.
“One year somebody does ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ but then you’ll never see it again, which is surprising,” Kerner said. “Everybody has their own ideas on what they’re doing, which is, I think, the best part about it.”
Participants in the workshop who enter the contest will take their scarecrows home and dress them up, Kerner said.
“The people that come in — they’re so proud of what they accomplished, Kerner said. “It’s kind of fun to watch the judges go around too because they start poking and pulling, making sure it [the scarecrow] is sturdy enough.”
Angela Carlucci, of Valatie, first heard about the workshop in the Register Star and wanted her sister and friends to come with her.
“I took a picture [of the ad] and sent it to everybody,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci and her friends went out to breakfast in Valatie before coming to the workshop and she said it was a good opportunity to get out of the house. Carlucci went to a different workshop 10 years ago where she made scarecrows out of coat hangers and straw, she said.
“Who wants to stay home and do laundry on a Sunday?” Carlucci said.
Carlcucci and her friends modeled their scarecrows after their children, who are all into sports, and had the scarecrows pose as if they were playing, she said.
“We had to come with an idea,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci was surprised by how long it takes to build a scarecrow and said she got schooled on how to build and use home improvement tools.
“We were wondering why it would take from 9:00 to 1:00 — now we know why,” Carlucci said. “A lot of us, it’s the first time we ever used a drill.”
Barb Kirby, of Kinderhook, is one of the friends Carlucci informed about the workshop.
“Angela just got us here with breakfast,” Kirby said in reference to the workshop’s early start time.
Kirby never heard of the class before coming, but has seen scarecrows at the fairgrounds in the past.
“I do recall seeing scarecrows here before and wondering where they came from,” Kirby said.
Kirby enjoyed building her scarecrow and said the workshop is a great chance for her and her friends to work together on a project.
“It’s fun because we’re being creative and doing it together,” Kirby said. “It’s definitely a team effort.”
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.