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Crowds replace crows as village gets 'scary'

Wheelbarrow scarecrowsAn artful army of crafty characters is preparing for its annual friendly invasion of a Norfolk holiday village.

A hundred scarecrows will line the streets, gardens and green at Martham near Great Yarmouth during the May Bank Holiday.

While crows will be giving the village a wide berth, crowds will be flocking there instead to see the festival which boosts local businesses and community causes.

And this year organisers are opening up the event to scarecrow makers from outside the village for the first time – with the lure of a £100 cash top prize.

Designers or businesses will be able to showcase their creations on the green to be seen on May 1st and 2nd by an estimated 10,000 visitors – three times the population of the village.

Previous scarecrow designs have included William and Kate, Posh and Becks, X Factor stars, Elvis Presley, a glamour model, a giant and a fishermen – but there is no annual theme, allowing people's imaginations to run riot, said one of the organisers Liz Carpenter.

She explained: “People come from far and wide to see it – both locals and holidaymakers, including one couple from Yorkshire who make it part of their trip to the area every year.

“It provides a big boost in trade for the local shops and pubs.”

The Scarecrow Festival has been running for nine years and she, husband Peter and another couple Julie and Steve Beales – who all former village carnival helpers - hatched the idea over a beer.

“We do the event to provide people with a good weekend – and don't go out to raise money, but the proceeds have helped local causes from repainting the village sign, buying equipment for the youth club, community Christmas tree lights and outings for people in a sheltered home.

“This year we want to provide two more benches near the village pond,” said Mrs Carpenter.

Also new this year are
• a chance to “yarn bomb” gardens, or donate knitted decorations
• a plea for villages to decorate their gardens with woollen pom-poms
• a miniature garden competition for tiny plots of up to 12inches

The festival runs from 10am to 5pm each day. There are also charity stalls and fair rides on the village green, classic cars, an art exhibition in the parish church, flower festival in the Methodist church, and a café and miniature gardens in the Baptist church.

The event is supported by cash from the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area, as part of its drive to boost visitors numbers and trade for local businesses. Its chairman Gareth Brown said: “Events such as the Martham Scarecrow Festival are what makes life in the British countryside unique.

“Visitors to the area look for fun, family events to attend to enrich their experience and long may it continue.”

For more information on the event contact Peter and Liz on 01493 740086 or Julie and Steven on 01493 748547.