Scarecrows have long been a cultural symbol of agriculture, the fall season and the harvest. At this time of year, you are sure to see denim-clad, straw hat-wearing scarecrows of all types lining suburban lawns and rural farms. The Broome County Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Services is celebrating fall this year with a scarecrow contest at Otsiningo Park, taking place from Oct. 6 through Oct. 18.

Otsiningo Park, located near Upper Front Street on Binghamton’s North Side, provides open green spaces alongside a pond with a walkway around it. The park currently has several dozen scarecrows on display ranging from scarecrows that commemorate the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the sacrifice of health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protesters, to beekeeper scarecrows, a replica of a hot dog stand and more. Park visitors can walk through and view all the scarecrows, voting for which ones are their favorites. The scarecrows were created and submitted by local businesses, various Broome County departments and offices, nonprofit organizations and even local families. In an email, Director of Broome County Parks, Recreation and Youth Services Elizabeth Woidt, 29, of Binghamton, wrote about how the creativity of the scarecrows impressed her.

“My favorite part of the event is seeing the creativity people have,” Woidt said. “There are some gorgeous displays that take a lot of planning and hard work to create and we truly appreciate everyone who participates to make this event successful and provide the community something to do!”

The scarecrows are set up along a circular walkway so viewers can safely walk through and view each display, all of which are numbered. Visitors can pick up a ballot and writing utensil at the beginning of the circle and vote for their favorite displays as they walk through. The ballots can be dropped off in a box at the end of the circle of displays. Woidt emphasized the importance of safety in planning the event.

“Participants have a three-day period to set up and a three-day period to tear down, so everyone can easily socially distance,” Woidt said. “The displays are up for voting for two weeks and will remain on display through Halloween. It is a safe event where the community can come out and enjoy the displays while socially distancing. This year we also added an online voting component.”

The scarecrow contest has been taking place for five years. In 2020, the contest was initially planned as a component of the Binghamton Fall Festival. When the Fall Festival was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, the scarecrow contest became its own stand-alone event. While most public events have been canceled as a result of the pandemic, the scarecrow contest continues to provide a safe way for Binghamton community members to get out, enjoy nature and art and feel a sense of community.

“In today’s pandemic world, we are seeing many events being canceled or going virtual,” Woidt said. “Luckily, this event is something we can safely put on for the community to participate in — both designing displays and coming to the park to vote. It gives you a reason to get outside and safely enjoy one of our beautiful Broome County Parks.”

Scarecrow contest voting will be taking place through Oct. 18 in Otsiningo Park and online. The scarecrows will be on display until Halloween.