AKRON, Iowa | With a flowerpot head, hair made of straw and what appears to be a ballet tutu for a skirt, Emma Harris' homemade scarecrow may be a bit of a fashion disaster.

But at least she's sporting the distinctive red-and-black coloring of an Akron-Westfield Westerner wannabe.

"It took me two days to make my scarecrow," Emma, an A-W first-grader, said. "I put everything together from stuff from a thrift store, as well as things I already had at home."

Emma's creation will be one of more than 50 scarecrows showcased at the 17th annual Great Akron Scarecrow Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Akron city park.

A GFWC/Iowa Friendship & Service Club-sponsored event, the scarecrow festival annually raise funds for various improvement projects in the Akron and Westfield area.

They do this through a baked sale, food vendors, face painting, kid games, petting zoo as well as a scarecrow decorating contest and auction.  

"This year, our theme is 'Dive into Fall' because we're raising money for our community swimming pool," Marjorie Lucken, one of the event's founding members, explained. "Last year, we raised more than $10,000 and we hope to do just as well this year."

Like Lucken, Sue Higman has been involved with the scarecrow festival from the very start.

"Actually, it was my husband Harold who suggested it," Higman recalled. "We were driving up to see a (Minnesota) Vikings game when he saw a scarecrow festival in Belle Plaine."

"Harold thought that would be perfect for Akron," Higman added. "He was right."

LeAnne Philips, one of the festival organizations, loves the "throwback" aspect of the festival.

"Hosting a scarecrow festival is a wonderful small town thing to do," she noted.

It also allows Philips to try her hand at scarecrow fashion design with her seven-year-old daughter, Libbie Philips.

"I think this is the third year that Libbie has decorated her own scarecrow," Philips said, attaching a straw hat to a scarecrow with a burlap sack face and a belted, tunic-style dress.

Although she helped in the assembly of her daughter Emma's scarecrow, Katie Harris' own creation was more of a last-minute art project.

"I never start early enough," Harris admitted. "I think that's OK since a scarecrow is supposed to be a little ragged around the edges."

Lucken can't help but smile while looking at the wide assortment of scarecrows coming into Akron's city park.

"I've seen so many fun and creative scarecrows over the years that I can't pick a favorite," she said.

That includes the Iowa State University-inspired scarecrow that Lucken brought this year.

"My scarecrow is actually from years ago but I wanted to bring it back again," she said. "It's done up in ISU Cyclone colors. However if you look closely, the scarecrow also has a teeny-tiny University of Iowa Hawkeyes emblem. This is because I wanted to have all of my bases cover."

Still, Lucken would never put the Cyclone scarecrow in the garden she keep at home.

"It's the funny thing about scarecrows," she said. "They scare crows in children's books but they never scare crows in real life."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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