St. Augustine may host one of the best Christmas light displays in the world, but Steve Marrazzo insists that the First Coast could learn a thing or two about celebrating fall.
More than a decade after moving to Florida, where seasonal changes may be reflected in wardrobe choices but certainly not in weather patterns, Marrazzo started dreaming up ways to bring fall to life here. “In New York, Halloween is the biggest holiday after Christmas,” Marrazzo says. “People go all out with decorations.”
In 2010, Marrazzo’s local gallery, Simple Gestures, hosted the first Great American Scarecrow Festival to create a simple, family-friendly fall celebration. “We have bobbing for apples, face painting, pumpkin painting, pie-hole (a cheeky take on cornhole) and of course the make-your-own scarecrows. We line the whole parking lot with hay bales,” Marrazzo explains. “People just have to bring clothes.”
This year marks the 7th Annual Great American Scarecrow Festival, which is as much a community party as fall fundraiser for Pie in the Sky, a nonprofit that bridges the gap for the elderly and underserved in the Hastings community. Cars line Anastasia Boulevard, live music from local band Lonesome Bert & The Skinny Lizards fills the air and simple fun abounds.
“Pie in the Sky makes lunch. This year we’re having barbecue pork sandwiches and there’s always a veggie option, too. They also sell pies,” Marrazzo says. Food and raffle tickets are the only things for sale at the free festival — and the pies always sell out early.
“Some years we’ve had cane sugar and I walk around hacking off pieces for kids to taste; It’s an old-fashioned thing.” Marrazzo, who resembles a tropically clad Santa Claus with his white beard and never-met-a-stranger persona, is happy to host a simple celebration for local families.
“You never know what else we’ll have here,” his wife, Sue, says. “People love it because it’s such a simple, homespun festival.”
If you’re not able to make it to the Great American Scarecrow Festival this year, follow Marrazzo ’s playful instructions for making your own scarecrow at home.
1 pair of pants
1 long-sleeved shirt
1 T-shirt for the head
2 sturdy sticks or broom handles,
1. Make the head.
Tie off the bottom of the T-shirt. Fill it with hay. Tuck in the sleeves, and tie off the bottom of the T-shirt loosely to create the head.
2. Make the body.
Loosely tie off the ankles of the pants and stuff with hay. You want some to stick out of the bottom like the Straw Man in Wizard of Oz. Then fill them in from the top until the pants are full. Follow the same steps with the shirt. Button it up. Tie it off. Stuff it with hay.
3. Draw the Face.
Draw the face on with marker before you place the head on the body. That’s easiest.
4. Support system.
Stick a pole through the shirt, and then tie the shirt to the pants and the head to the shirt. You can just slit holes in the shirt to make it easier. Leave a portion of the pole sticking out of the neck of the shirt and place the head on it. Add a little more hay around the neck then tie on a bandana. Generally, I like to tie a hat on top. Hats with brims are even better.
You can learn more at hastingspieinthesky.com
The 7th Annual Great American Scarecrow Festival on October 22 from 11:00 – 3:00 p.m.