Scarecrow spectacle spiffs up downtown Central Point

·4 min read

Sep. 20—Success can be measured in a lot of different ways.

For Gold Hill resident Marilyn Kelly, a lifelong plant guru and crafter, success this week meant driving through downtown Central Point and seeing 40 of her 6-foot-tall, handmade scarecrows decked out in flannels, overalls and fun hats watching over Pine Street from one lamppost to the next.

Making a variety of arts and crafts has always been a fun outlet for Kelly.

When she made her first few scarecrows a half-dozen years ago, it was just a fun way to spark some creativity and competition at work.

In the nursery business for 40 years, Kelly worked for a landscape nursery in California's Humboldt County and challenged fellow employees to come up with the most creative scarecrows they could.

Themes ranged from ordinary to elaborate — think a scarecrow surfboarder and a scarecrow irrigation tech. The competition went on for years, and scarecrow crafting became a fun add-on for Kelly's other pursuits.

Ever evolving her side hustle, Kelly moved to the Rogue Valley to be near her grandson and now offers the scarecrows at the Grants Pass Farmers Market along with her houseplants.

Installing her 40 colorfully clad scarecrows last week brought a smile to Kelly's face. The 67-year-old said the city found out about her scarecrow making ways last year, thanks to a social media post by her daughter, Miranda St. John.

"Almost as soon as she posted it, we got a call from someone who said, 'Can you make 40?'" Kelly said with a laugh.

"The whole family pitched in for that order, but we pulled it off."

Before making the large flock of scarecrows for the city of Central Point, Kelly said she was left to simply send her creations off into the wild blue yonder.

"I never got to see where any of them ended up before; I just had to wonder," she added. "To be able to see them on display — for people to enjoy — was really fun!"

Kelly said she spends a fair amount of time procuring parts for scarecrows, including hay, wood for frames, shoes, hats and clothes. She's a huge fan, she says, of "fill a bag for $5" and is ALWAYS on the hunt for hats.

Nikki Petersen, Central Point recreation manager, said the scarecrows, which city officials put up last week in time for its Made in Southern Oregon event, were the best way she could imagine to celebrate the arrival of fall.

Not only do they hope to add to the ranks of scarecrows, but they say they're so well-made they'll be displaying them for years to come. Not to toot their own horn, but Petersen said the city of Central Point has — for sure — a knack for fun.

Petersen said a community volunteer found out about Kelly's scarecrows and suggested it to the city. It wasn't a matter of "if" the city was on board, just a matter of how quickly they could be ready for pickup.

"We all immediately loved the idea, and the scarecrows look absolutely amazing. We love being able to support local makers and do something fun for fall. It's one of those things nobody was expecting: 40 scarecrows suddenly showing up in the downtown," Petersen said.

"Three or four of us went out there and picked them up, and we were just amazed at all the detail and how much thought and time she puts into them. We took two pickup trucks, and we drove down to her house. I'm sure we were quite a spectacle, driving down the highway with all those hats and arms and legs peeking out."

Petersen added, "Not too many other cities you'd see rolling up to someone's house way out in the country, 15 minutes down a dirt road. ... We still laugh about picking them up."

Kelly said she enjoys the happiness the scarecrows bring to those who pick them out. She'll keep offering them at local markets and by special order for anyone in need of some summer and fall decor.

She plans weekly booths at the Grants Pass Farmers Market, offering plants and scarecrows.

"I only recently added the scarecrows at the market," Kelly said.

"I'll customize them or make them however people want, but I also have some already made for people to pick from. They're just a lot of fun."

Watch for Kelly's scarecrow making updates on Instagram @gold_hill_farms

For scarecrow specs (or to donate hats, which she can always use) send an email to Scarecrow pricing varies, starting around $35, and is based on items used and level of detail.

Reach reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal