There shouldn't be a single crow in downtown Thomson these days. But there are a lot of pedestrians.
The "Fall"crow decorating contest, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, began Sept. 25. So far, there are more than 40 scarecrows lining Main Street.
"We were absolutely surprised with how many people entered," said Bridget Paulson, a member of the new downtown committee. "It's just had a great impact on downtown Thomson. I hope this is just the start. ... And the more people that see them, the more they want to participate."
Although the original deadline was Oct. 1, new "Fall"crows are being set up every day and the deadline has been extended, according to Chamber of Commerce Director Carolyn Gilbert. For the contest, businesses decorate a scarecrow based on their business.
Although all the "Fall"crows are to be set up around downtown Thomson, Mrs. Gilbert said the contest is open to any business in McDuffie County and provides a "cheap, fun way to advertise." A $10 registration fee includes two straw bales to set up with the "Fall"crow.
When the downtown committee was discussing a Halloween event for children, an idea was presented to solicit donations from local businesses for decorations. But Mrs. Paulson, who co-owns the Big Dipper Ice Cream shop with her husband, said the small businesses are always being asked for donations. So the scarecrow concept was created.
As a small-business owner, Mrs. Paulson liked it.
"We can make them the way we want to make them, we can do with them what we want to do with them and have fun with them," she said of the scarecrows. "And for a $10 fee, we've had a ball. We've just had a great time."
In addition to decorating, the project was intended to direct people's attention to downtown. From her shop between the theater and the museum on Main Street, Mrs. Paulson said she saw families and groups walking the sidewalks and stopping at each scarecrow all weekend.
"That's what the problem was, there was nothing to draw the attention to downtown. The people don't know to stop and look because they just fly through town," she said. "But this has been a great weekend. Everyone's just amazed that people are out walking."
When the idea was announced, Mrs. Paulson said some people were worried about vandalism. So far, that hasn't been a problem.
"It's almost as if the kids have the pride in their town," she said. "Even the kids from the movie theater have had fun with them. Friday night, they were all standing by them with their cell phones taking pictures. Everybody's just had a ball."
Mrs. Paulson said a couple from Florida stopped in her shop over the weekend. They told her they were just passing through, but stopped because of all the festivity downtown. They loved the "Fall"crows so much that they wanted to take the idea back to their hometown.
Mrs. Gilbert also has received positive feedback.
"My hat is off to you and the Chamber for bringing a spark to downtown Thomson," Zephie Banks said in an e-mail to Mrs. Gilbert. "As I travel through other small towns, I always feel so at home in the ones that look as if their people have a sense of pride in their hometown. It is so rewarding to see how our businesses have rallied to show their support. I just love it!"
Businesses who wish to enter the contest may register with the Chamber of Commerce by calling (706) 597-1000. Mrs. Gilbert said judging will take place the second week of November, and the winner will be kept for display next year. The judges will grade each entry from a photograph.
The committee overseeing the project consists of Mrs. Paulson, Tina Swann, Jenny Lindsey, Corey Johnson, Johnette Bell and Dawn Powell.