For hundreds of years scarecrows have helped prevent birds from eating seeds sown by Vermont farmers. In the small town of Albany, the sometimes frightening symbol recently took on a new meaning and it's putting smiles on the faces of residents.
Monday, a collection of scarecrows had a final moment in the sun, before they get packed away in Karen and Brian Chaffee's Barton garage for the winter. For the last couple of weeks they've been propped along the roadside of neighboring Albany, greeting all who pass through the small town.
"My favorite is Ruthie," said Karen as she pointed toward a Scarecrow with an orange wig and matching dress.
She, her husband, and family friend Donna Bousquet poured hundreds of hours over the last few years into creating 66 scarecrows. Each has its own identity and is meant to represent a community member who has since passed.
"A lot of them touched our lives in different ways and so we just thought it would be really cool to bring them back to life again," said Chaffee.
Bousquet painted every face on the manequins and says she's never done any artwork like it. "They just had their own characters and they came out," she said, "and it would be really funny because I'd do a face and (Karen) goes, 'that's just how I imagined it'."
Those at the local general store say the new visitors are the talk of town. "Everybody loved them, everybody thought they were just marvelous," said Tina Sweet as she worked behind the counter, "I thought it was great because I recognized a lot of them from the past like the old storekeepers that used to own the store that passed away."
Resident Jamie Seguin says she caught her first - and last - glimpse of the scarecrows Sunday night. "I was driving really slow and I was reading all the names and recognizing some of the people from being here my whole life, it was pretty neat," she said
The scarecrows also helped raise money for the local fire department by drawing attention to its coin drop over the weekend. Chaffee pulled them down this week though, in part because she didn't want the novelty to wear off.
She says she's not sure if they'll return next year. "We may make 20 more and we might not," she said, "it's a lot of work."
Community members say they appreciate the effort and hope Chaffee can find the time and inspiration for a repeat showing.
Chaffee says the novel idea isn't her own. She saw a similar display in a small New Hampshire town while passing through about seven years ago.