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Scarecrows top secret
11:00am Saturday 28th April 2012 in News
The organisers of Urchfont Scarecrow Festival say they are keeping the theme of this year’s event under wraps for fear of competitors stealing their idea.
It is not that they are being paranoid or over-cautious, as festival chairman Rob Pendry says they have painful experience from previous years.
Mr Pendry, a retired teacher, said: “More than once it has happened that after we announced our theme, but before our festival opened, someone else has nicked our idea.
“We were flabbergasted that our theme had been used by someone else. It is hard to believe they don’t have the imagination to come up with their own ideas, but this year we are taking no chances. It is top secret.”
Whatever the theme, the event, which takes place over the bank holiday weekend from May 5 to 7, is estimated to attract more than 10,000 visitors from all over the country.
Mr Pendry said: “Someone comes from Teesside every year and last year a family from Birmingham heard about it on Radio 2 and came on spec. They had a wonderful day.”
Urchfont’s scarecrow festival is the oldest in Wiltshire and was possibly the first in the south of England.
Committee member Jean Thomas saw one in Derbyshire and brought the idea to Urchfont. Many villages in the county have copied the format, but Urchfont’s is the first and, many believe, the best.
Visitors are astonished at the quality of the figures, of which there will be 49 this year, five fewer than last year.
Some residents have been creating scarecrow tableaux since the event was first held in 1997.
This year will be the 15th festival. It was only cancelled once, in 2001, because of foot and mouth disease.
More than 300 people in the village are involved, serving on the barbecue, registration and tea stalls, manning the car parks, or making cakes.
The amount of food and drink sold over the three days is mind-boggling and last year the festival took a total of £32,000, half of which was clear profit.
Profits – £16,375 last year – go to village institutions including the church, school, village hall, community shop, cricket club, allotments and the good neighbour scheme. Even the ducks on the duck pond are regular beneficiaries. Wiltshire Air Ambulance gets £1,500.
Mr Pendry said: “This is a village event, organised by the village, so the money ought to come back to the village as well.”