The annual Santa Ynez Valley Scarecrow Fest is underway. Nearly 200 scarecrows are populating the Valley from Los Olivos to Los Alamos, each the creation of a local business or organization.
The Solvang Third Wednesday committee launched Scarecrow Fest in 2010, which was then held exclusively in America's Danish capital. In 2013, the event went Valleywide, sponsored in part by Visit Santa Ynez Valley. Participants this year represent Solvang (including Ballard), Los Olivos, Los Alamos and Buellton. Locals and visitors get to vote on their favorites -- ballot boxes are located by every scarecrow -- in each town. They then compete for the best in the Valley Harvest Cup. The defending 2015 champion is the Los Olivos business Honey Paper.
The Lucas & Lewellen wine tasting room in Solvang is known for its moveable scarecrows and didn't disappoint this year. Their entry is an homage to the rock band ZZ Top, whose frontmen wear long, full beards.
"We were casting around for ideas and wanted to do a rock 'n' roll theme. ZZ Top has such a distinctive look, we went with them," explained manager Andy Moore. Their "LL Top" scarecrows move side to side, thanks to a jerry-rigged barbecue rotisserie motor devised by part-time employee Mark Liddi, a retired lieutenant with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.
"He can engineer anything we can dream up," Moore said. ZZ Top music plays in sync with the movements.
A scarecrow relaxing in bed welcomes guests to Solvang's Royal Copenhagen Inn.
"He's Sven, the Scarecrow," said the hotel's Paul Wallace with enthusiasm. "There's a whole story behind him. He's from Denmark and he's decided even scarecrows need time off. He was working in a vineyard but it was an early harvest so now he's checked into the Royal Copenhagen Inn for some well-earned rest."
Bob Oswaks, owner of Bob's Well Bread in Los Alamos, dug into his own closet to dress his scarecrow.
"His outfit is what I wore when I was in baking school," said the former film executive. The nameless scarecrow is holding Oswaks' homemade pain de levain and baguettes.
At the Solvang Conference & Visitors Center kiosk on Copenhagen Drive, sisters Kirsten Klitgaard and Susan Lee, both of whom work there part time greeting tourists, created a Miss Danish Old Maid scarecrow.
"We wanted to honor the 1911 founding of Solvang by creating a Danish Maid who looked like she was at least 100 years old," Klitgaard explained. The scarecrow is wearing real Danish shoes, and has been popular with visitors posing with her for photos.
Solvang Senior Center member Diane Olmsted created the center's group of scarecrows. The clever trio promotes their new tai chi classes, their message about "growing younger at the center" and that "old guys rule."
Even the U.S. Post Office in Buellton got into the act. Their entry is a mail truck with a scarecrow named I.B. Scared hanging out the window.
"It was a group effort," said clerk Beverly Clement, who built the miniature "truck" and then glued "the darn thing" to a wheeled cart so it can be brought inside when the office is closed. She gave credit to Postmaster Holly Sierra for the scarecrow's name.
Voting is open through Nov. 7. For more information, visit syvscarecrows.com.