A number of the scarecrows and displays were put into place on Friday night, just ahead of the opening for this year's Scarecrow Stroll. The stroll started Saturday, Sept. 19 and continues until Halloween. (Rebecca Van Der Zalm/Special to Black Press Media)

Scarecrow event given COVID twist

Art's Nursery's annual fall fundraiser, on the Langley-Surrey border, continues with some tweaks

A popular scarecrow-themed event has been given a COVID twist.

For the past five years, Art’s Nursery’s in Port Kells has hosted an annual Scarecrow Festival in mid-September, a one-day event – including hayrides and food vendors – that kicks off their multi-week fall fundraiser designed to help charity while also getting people in the Halloween spirit.

Well, COVID has caused general manager Rebecca Van Der Zalm and her team at Art’s to re-invent this year’s event.

“Due to COVID-19, our annual event has significantly changed,” she said. For instance, instead of hosting a one-day scarecrow party (that would have happened today, Saturday, Sept. 19), they are inviting families to take a scarecrow stroll between now and Hallow’s Eve.

“We’re rethinking fall. Thinking of it in a different way,” she said. “And I actually think it’s going to be more popular than we thought.”

There are still going to be more than 50 “creative and crazy” scarecrows – sponsored by local companies – that will be displayed throughout the 10-plus acre site – mostly in the outdoor sections of the nursery – during that time.

“These were not your average scarecrows,” Van Der Zalm said, noting there are space aliens, video game characters, cartoon fish, and superheroes, just to name a few. She and the team were putting them in place Friday night, after closing.

The scarecrows will remain on display seven days a week, between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., any-day, until Halloween, allowing people to visit at their leisure.

“This will allow for social distancing and other safety pre-cautions, while still maintaining the spirit of the event,” Van Der Zalm said.

RELATED: VIDEO – Do-it-yourself scarecrows, for charity

In addition to continuing the scarecrow displays, Art’s is bringing back its Pop-Up-Pumpkin Patch. Returning for its second year, this feature is actually expected to grow for 2020, Van Der Zalm said.

This is an undercover playground of sorts with a dry selection of gorgeous gourds where kids can play and have fun in a safe and clean way, without getting wet and muddy, Van Der Zalm said. Thanks to the creativity of her staff, this display is also an area where many families stop for a photo opp.

Access to the patch will be managed with a limited number of people allowed into the area at any one time. Other safety and sanitation protocols will also be in place.

Scarecrow building still possible – but at home

In past, Art’s Nursery also raised money for charity with its by-donation scarecrow building program.

PAST YEARS: VIDEO – Scarecrow fest fosters family fun and fundraises

“In previous years, our hugely popular Build-A-Crow scarecrow building station dominated the event and the vast majority of our fundraising efforts,” Van Der Zalm said. “Unfortunately, this portion of the event is simply not possible given social distancing guidelines. Instead, we are making scarecrow building kits available for purchase.”

Because of COVID, this year, kids cannot come and build a scarecrow.

“Unfortunately, it’s not possible to do this in a safe, socially-distant way this year,” she added. So instead, about 300 DIY scarecrow kits have been made up and are available for purchase online or in-store. They’ll make up more kits, if the demand continues, Van Der Zalm said, noting there were more than 600 builds on site last year.

“It’s simply not make and take this year, it’s take and make,” Van Der Zalm said.

“Although we will miss the madness and mayhem of scarecrow building season, we anticipate that families will keep the spirit alive and enjoy the experience in the safety of their own home,” she added, always appreciating the excitement among the kids and adults alike.

Part proceeds from the kits, plus a portion of the sponsorship money, will go to support three area organizations and charities: Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, Langley Inclusion Society, and The Versatiles.

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