Trail of Scarecrows

This annual competition for K-5 school groups, scout groups and families always offers arboretum guests an enjoyable autumn walk along the prairie’s edge. Students work together to create a scarecrow based on book themes or characters.

Register for the Contest

Participation Is Easy

  1. Review the Guidelines and submit a Registration Form to
  2. Read a book with your class, family or group on the assigned theme
  3. Build a scarecrow representing the book or a character in the book and write an essay about the scarecrow
  4. Drop off scarecrow by the deadline
  5. Visit the arboretum during the month of October to see your scarecrow and essay on display. Arboretum visitors will vote for their favorite throughout the month. Voting will be online for 2020.
  6. Attend a virtual awards ceremony in late October. Winning classes/groups will be given free admission passes to attend the award ceremony. The three scarecrows with the highest number of votes will win a prize!

Contest Guidelines

  • Any K-5 school class, K-5 group or family is welcome to participate. Entries must be original and not pre-made.
  • Each entry must include a book title, scarecrow, scarecrow name and 150-200 word essay about the scarecrow. Scarecrows may not be dropped off until registration is approved by Gabis Arboretum staff.
  • Steel posts will be provided by the arboretum and will be capable of supporting the scarecrow in a freestanding or seated manner. All scarecrow submissions must be backed by a 2×4 piece of wood to attach to base. Scarecrow base will not exceed 3.5 feet in width or length. Height is limited to 6 feet tall.
  • Three top winners will be chosen by popular vote from the public online.
  • Gabis Arboretum reserves the right to remove any scarecrow that deteriorates to an unacceptable level during the month. Please make your submissions as weather-proof and indestructible as possible!
  • Gabis Arboretum is not responsible for loss or damage to scarecrows while on display or in the drop-off/pick-up areas. Please do not use valuable materials/objects as the scarecrows will not be monitored.
  • Gabis Arboretum will provide identifying signage for your scarecrow and install all scarecrows.
  • Do not include live plant material, mulch, Tiki torches, flammable objects or gas/electric powered generators with your entries.
  • No handouts, promotional material or free giveaways can be associated with your entry.
  • Gabis Arboretum reserves the right to use photographs, school names, contact names and scarecrow names for publicity purposes.
  • Entries must be suited for viewing by small children. Entries that are controversial, commercial, political or graphic (sexual/gory/scary) in nature will not be accepted.

Helpful Hints

  • Scotchgard works to protect clothes against mildew.
  • Stuffing can be made from many materials. Plastic bags and bubble wrap work well. Newspaper is not suggested.
  • Scarecrows are outdoors and exposed to the elements for a full month. Please avoid water-soluble glues and paints.
  • Use weather-resistant material like nylon and polyester.
  • Ideas for the head: stuffed pillowcase, gourd, milk jug, ball or wood.
  • Ideas for hair: shredded plastic, dried moss, old mop, yarn.
  • Scarecrows stay outside in the arboretum, so make sure everything is secure. Sewing works best, but large safety pins or staples will work.
  • A great resource: Scarecrows: Making Harvest Figures and Other Yard Folks by Felder Rushing.