The Maleny Scarecrow Festival began in 1998 with the concept of a cultural event that would enhance Maleny’s distinctive rural qualities and offer a unique opportunity for the local and wider communities to express their creativity. It was difficult to imagine a more perfect setting for hundreds of artistic and whimsical scarecrows than the rolling emerald green hills of Maleny. The event was based on the creation and display of scarecrows throughout the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
The Festival coincided with the September school holidays to maximise the opportunity for families, the local community and visitors to participate in a wide range of activities.
In 1998 there were 110 scarecrows entered in the competition, with more than 200 on display throughout the region.
The organisers initiated relationships with other Scarecrow festivals throughout the world, including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe with the aim to seek international participation, with a view to expanding the cross-cultural elements available to the community.
The original organiser was Lyn Fellows, Festival Director 1998 to 2001. Lyn is a New Zealand born nationalised Australian living in the Conondale area with husband Ron. She was a wildlife carer, organic farmer, and writer, before embarking on a round the world trip by motor cycle.
Written in 2002…
“Maleny has long been renowned for its talented artisans. When it comes to making scarecrows, it seems the entire community abounds with flair and imagination. Each year a widely diverse range of scarecrows takes to the streets and fields. Many are humorous, some quirky, a few even poignant, but they all gain our attention and most importantly, put a smile on our faces.
“We’ve seen kings, queens and cross-dressers, animals and of course, crows (birds), in many guises. Made from a range of materials, they are welded, woven, thatched and stuffed. From coffee cups to waiters, fairies to fallen angels, witches, magicians, doctors, patients, lawyers and judges.
“A great deal of wine was enjoyed before one character could be fashioned from the empty casks. Some scarecrows have earned a place on the couch when families couldn’t bear to be parted from them after the event. Much to the amusement of wedding guests last year, one bridal couple was accompanied by scarecrow counterparts dressed in identical attire!
“The bicycle-riding winner from 1998 continues to re-emerge annually, always in a different guise. A team of enthusiastic thatchers created the tallest scarecrow entirely from lemongrass and beside a dam stands a lady in a bright yellow dress, testament to the durability of papier-mâché.
“Each year, participation from around the world continues to grow. Japan is celebrating its own scarecrow festival in Yamagata, the thirtieth one to be held there. Last year, their organisers were so impressed by the Maleny scarecrows, they replicated several for their festivities. School children from Singapore, the USA and United Kingdom have honoured us annually by sending drawings, stories and even miniature scarecrows. This month, the Netherlands Contemporary Art Museum is presenting a scarecrow exhibition that includes posters from the Maleny Scarecrow Carnival.
“Schools, community and support groups, hospitals, retirement villages, even government departments, have taken the opportunity to create their own unique scarecrows and yard art for the Scarecrow Carnival. This year brings a whole range of new faces and characters. For a few weeks in September, families, friends, neighbours and colleagues, put aside their cares to share in the spirit of the Festival.
“From the very young to the elderly, whether they are the creators or the visitors, everyone is a participant who, for years to come, will remember the experience.