Meaford Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival: A Brief History
A history: 1996-2022
In 2022: It’s now the end of May and scarecrow volunteers have cautiously been gathering to formulate plans and actually start assembling a batch of scarecrows to mark the 25th anniversary of the Meaford Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival. After two years of lockdowns and uncertainty, and two cancellations, event organizers are forging ahead.
This year’s theme: Celebrating 25 Years
Scarecrows on display in downtown Meaford, Bognor, Annan, and Leith beginning September 6. Parade on Sykes Street and family festival at the Rotary Harbour Pavilion on Friday, September 30.
In 2021: cancelled due to Covid
in 2020: cancelled due to Covid
In 2019: The scarecrow invasion theme in 2019 was Book Invasion in recognition of Meaford’s commitment to build a new library on the corner of Sykes and Trowbridge Streets. Bognor joined the invasion for the first time with displays featuring children’s classic storybook characters like Harry Potter and Mary Poppins. Awarded the Festivals & Events Top 100 award for the sixth year in a row.
In 2018: Long-term scarecrow volunteer-extraordinaire Mary Woods was presented with the Governor General Sovereign Medal for Volunteers. The theme in 2018: Scarecrows Go Western. Awarded the Festivals & Events Top 100 award for the fifth year in a row.
In 2017: Scarecrows celebrated Canada’s 150th with all things red and white. Canada’s great personalities past and current were depicted in vignettes on Station Hill, in market square, at the museum, and in businesses throughout the municipality.
The Meaford Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016. Its local appeal was stronger than ever, thanks in part to the commitment of its 300-plus volunteers who contribute over 3,000 hours per year to plan, organize and execute the event and to the dedicated media support of the Meaford Express and Meaford Independent. Its draw from across Canada continued to grow thanks to media coverage from its regional media sponsors – Bayshore Broadcasting, Rogers TV, Metroland – to the impact of social media, and the Municipality of Meaford’s website.
The Meaford Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival was featured in a two-page article in Our Canada magazine (August/September)
The Golden Helmets returned to Meaford to celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary. Previous pre-parade shows were in 2010 and in 2013 during the Golden Helmets 50th anniversary.
Volunteers and sponsors from the past 20 years were honored during a 20th Birthday Bash on Sept. 24th, with guest appearances from George, the grandfather of all scarecrows, and his namesake, George Potopnyk who introduced the scarecrow idea in 1996 as a way of attracting people into the Business Improvement Area (BIA).
The event was once again named among Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) Top 100 for the third year in a row.
Each year, the invasion sets a theme. The 2016 theme was Scarecrows Celebrate 20 Years with Music. Past themes have included: The Wizard of Oz, Fairy Tales, Nursery Rhymes, The Circus, and Scarecrows Go to the Movies.
In 2015, the theme was Scarecrows Celebrate the Year of Sport in keeping with the national year of Sport. Gold medal Paralympian Jason Crone led the parade which showcased sport teams including the Knight’s Hockey and the Special Olympic Teams.
TSM (Totally Scarecrow Meaford) was a scarecrow vignette with TSN’s Don Cherry and Bob McKenzie, Fred Wallace from Bayshore Broadcasting and a Knight’s hockey player. TSM received 1.5 million followers through retweets.
In 2014, the Invasion hosted its first Sponsors’ Appreciation Event including kazoos and gigantic cookies for each sponsor.
And the Scarecrow Invasion Night at the Meaford Knight’s Hockey Game collected 85 lbs of food for the Golden Town Outreach Food Bank.
The Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival were the co-recipients of the Meaford Chamber of Commerce 2013 Tourism Award and winners of the award in 2014.
In 2013, local author Linda Hamill released her book Scarecrow Invasion. Scarecrows Poems in The Gardens attracted 75 poets from Grades 4-7.
In 2011, the Invasion was recognized for voluntarism by receiving the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism.
Also in 2011, the Meaford Scarecrow Invasion & Family Festival was invited and gladly participated as judge for the Best Royal Wedding Competition between Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia and Lumsden, Saskatchewan.
The Invasion has been registered with Culture Days since 2011. The Invasion produced an online video to commemorate Culture Days in 2014 and 2015.
The invasion established a website in 2011 (www.scarecrowinvasion.ca) and has embraced social media (Facebook, 2011) and Twitter (2015).
In 2009, the invasion inspired a short film No Room for a Scarecrow by Meaford Youth Film Studio and shown during the Meaford International Film Festival; the Scarecrow Theme Song by Will Matthews; and the Meet Me in Meaford song by local musician, Allan Johnson.
In 2002, the Scarecrow Invasion tried to challenge the record for most scarecrows in the Guinness Book of World Records. Meaford created 2,221 scarecrows but the record was not achieved but the Invasion had caught our imaginations.
The month- long scarecrow Invasion began in 1996 as an attraction for the Business Improvement Area. Within three years, it had become a popular local event in Meaford and was outgrowing its original mandate. The Invasion further developed under a committee of volunteers with a focus on children and families.
- Through the years, the invasion has received coverage from Radio Europe, the BBC, Fairchild TV out of Hong Kong, and Canadian media such as CTV, CBC, City TV, and Harrowsmith Country Life magazine; as well from our local media.
- The Meaford Marching Scarecrow Kazoo Band is the invasion’s official marching band.
- Poet Hilary Gillespie and illustrator Lynn Smith have conducted workshops in Meaford based on their book Under the Sunflower Sun whose scarecrow ‘Straggle’ is especially loved by Meaford scarecrows.
- For several years, we have hosted an event planners meeting to coordinate promotion for the Big Fall Weekend.
- The Art Scarecrow Project participants designed scarecrow ambassadors to travel around the Municipality. The project is funded by the Community Foundation Grey Bruce
- The Scarecrow Invasion & Family Festival is one of the most popular events in Grey & Bruce Counties.