Taking shelter under a pop-up tent during a particular heavy rain shower Saturday, Michelle Prichard held 3-month-old son Matai while his sisters ran across the baseball field.
The girls — Eliya, 8, and Samarah, 2, — were headed to a temporary stage to join musical act Eric Haines, who asked for volunteers. The duo didn’t seem to mind the downpour that sent many families scurrying for shelter just before noon at Sehmel Homestead Park.
“They’re still having fun. Kids make the best of it,” Prichard said of her daughters’ obliviousness to the dismal weather.
The family, along with hundreds of others, was at the Gig Harbor park for the Peninsula Metropolitan Park District’s seventh annual Scarecrow Festival.
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Standing at the entrance wearing an oversized foam cowboy hat, PenMet executive director Terry Lee greeted attendees by handing out programs listing the day’s entertainment with a map of activities.
“Of all the events we put on, it’s probably the most popular,” Lee said before Saturday’s festival.
Despite starting off damp, families flocked to the park’s baseball diamonds that were transformed into a fall festival complete with a petting zoo, pony and hay rides, carnival games and ever-popular pumpkin launchers that flung miniature pumpkins through the air.
And what would a Scarecrow Festival be without a scarecrow competition?
Stationed along the far side of one of the fields, a row of scarecrows stared back at attendees. As they walked, visitors were asked to cast ballots — or in this case carnival tickets — for their favorite display from each category.
Families, local businesses and nonprofits competed for “Best in Show” and “People’s Choice.”
Scarecrow designs ranged from lounging Seahawks-clad fans and a sugar skull family honoring Dia de los Muertos, to a bale of hay transformed into a character from the “Minions” movie.
Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One’s display was last in line, but came with a public service message.
Prevention specialist Nanette Tatom was on hand to remind people to check the age of smoke alarms. If they’re older than 10 years, they should be replaced, she said.
The fire district has participated in the contest the last four years and uses it to spread awareness about fire safety, Tatom said.
But there’s more to the contest than the public outreach. As a three-time winner of the contest, bragging rights are on the line, Tatom joked.
This year’s display included previous years’ trophies for an intimidation factor.
“There is that competition, but it is so fun,” Tatom said. “Everyone is very good natured.”
By the end of the festival the winners were announced and the Gig Harbor Cooperative preschool upset Gig Harbor Fire for the nonprofit Best of Show title with its “Mom Life” scarecrow that included a mother pushing a full shopping cart.
Other winners included:
▪ Family Best of Show: Sugar Skull Scarecrow by the Coper family
▪ Family People’s Choice: Poke ‘crow Go by the Albertson family
▪ Business Best of Show: Seahawk Sparkle Squad by UpTown Dental
▪ Business People’s Choice: Little Red Riding “Hood” by Spirit Halloween Store
▪ Nonprofit Best of Show: Mom Life by Gig Harbor Co-Op
▪ Nonprofit People’s Choice: Frankenstein by Fox Island United Church of Christ.