The arborists at Beetlebung Tree Care hope their treetop handiwork doesn’t cause an accident this week.
But it’s not their lofty tree-pruning that they’re worried about. It’s a papier-mache and hay arborist hanging at the entrance to the West Tisbury business.
His name is the Singing Arborist and the Scared Crow, and he is a scarecrow. He’s tied into the tree about 20 feet above the ground, with state-of-the-art climbing gear, including a brand new climbing rope, a saddle and a prusik. A papier-mache crow squawks beside him.
Josh Scott, owner of the tree care company, just moved his business into town in June, and he assisted his father in law, Rob Hauck, and other family and friends in the scarecrow’s construction.
“It’s just fun to do,” Mr. Hauck said, who added that it took a small army of people to get the sculpture into the tree.
Evidence of the largest proliferation of scarecrows to date is spread Island-wide, where musicians populate the main streets and spooky stuffed strangers line the side streets.
The festival began 14 years ago as a fundraiser for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury. Local businesses can purchase a scarecrow for a donation of $100 to the school. Families and classes at the school volunteer to build scarecrows, this year mostly conforming to a musical theme. More than 85 businesses asked for a scarecrow this year, the highest count ever.
“That’s 10 more participants than last year,” said Paul Karasik, who coordinates the festival. And the orders keep on coming.
“The word has gotten out that this is something the Island businesses like to do,” Mr. Karasik said. “For many of them, it’s the end of their season, it’s a way to end on an upbeat note.”
Mr. Karasik came to work Monday to discover that he had three more requests for scarecrows.
“What happens is that I have just enough scarecrows on Saturday, and I come to school on Monday, and businesses look around, and they want their own scarecrow,” he said. He’ll oblige until the orders stop coming. Two families volunteered to build one scarecrow each at the last minute, and the third fell to him.
That’s why at noon, Mr. Karasik was fitting a pear-shaped gourd to form the head of a new scarecrow, the body of which he’ll probably mold with chicken wire and stuff with straw. “It’s really important to have a master plan,” Mr. Karasik said of general scarecrow construction. The school provides a workshop each year for families that intend to build their first scarecrow.
It’s the rare business that purchases a scarecrow and then sets to building it, too, such as with Beetlebung Tree Care. In all, the Beetlebung project took “way too many hours,” Mr. Hauck said. But they are already planning to participate next year. Some businesses, like the Toy Box and Martha’s Closet, pooled their resources this year to get a scarecrow to share. In West Tisbury, Ozzy Ozbourne at Alley’s General Store shared the parking lot with Dolly Parton of 7a Foods.
Entrants to Claudia’s jewelry store in Vineyard Haven were welcomed this week by Duke Ellington, who totes a framed score of Take the A Train. Claudia Canerdy has participated in the scarecrow festival each year since it began, she said. “It’s fun for the town to be dressed up. It helps the community to look more festive and we welcome anything like that.”
Next door at the Beach House, a wool-bearded fiddler was poised on the roof of a cardboard house. Mary Wolverton, a fiddle teacher and parent at the Charter School, participated in the fundraiser for the first time, as her first-grader Mattie had just been accepted to the school this year. Construction was difficult because Mattie and his three-year-old brother kept wanting to play inside the house while she was making it, Ms. Wolverton said.
Inside the Beach House, two women discussed the scarecrows they’d seen around town, from Kokopelli at the Green Room to Cat Stevens at the Edgartown post office.
“It gets so that you wait for them to come out to see what they are going to be this year,” said Suzi Pendergast.
“Many of the customers who have come in have stopped outside taking pictures,” said Linda Ferrini, a salesperson. “They outdo themselves every year.”
“Sometimes when you have one of the really good ones, it makes you want to go in the store,” Ms. Pendergast said. “Especially if it’s not a store you have been in recently.”
“People are coming into town to take a scarecrow walk,” Mr. Karasik said. “Of course it attracts people into the stores. It’s good for the charter school, it’s good for the business community, wonderful for the community, and great for the builder.”
Funds raised, which add up to more than $8,500 this year, will go toward a new building project at the school.
Mr. Karasik said people often forget that the charter school is also public, and serves members of each Island community. “We are not an elite private school,” he said. “We are a public school like any other.” But unlike the other towns, they can’t go to town meeting to request additional funds, he said.
On Sunday, the entire orchestra of Charter School scarecrows will move to the porch of the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven for one last group gathering.