ST. CHARLES – Among the thousands of visitors to Scarecrow Fest on Saturday was one woman with a unique connection to the annual event: Jean Becker.
Becker, of Florida, is the former Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director who created Scarecrow Fest, now in its 28th year.
"I think it's incredible that it has the staying power that it has," she said.
Staying power, indeed. The downtown St. Charles festival has attracted up to 150,000 people in recent years and has received recognition from the American Bus Association and, among other organizations, NBC's "Today" show.
The festival started with 12 scarecrows, doughnuts and cider, Becker said. She noted its purpose was to attract people to St. Charles and showcase the city.
Amy Egolf, the bureau's current executive director, has made similar statements about the festival's purpose, describing it as a marketing tool for the community.
"The value the fest brings to our community in terms of exposure is next to incalculable," Egolf has said.
This year's Scarecrow Fest, which ends Sunday, features a carnival, a petting zoo, live entertainment, children's activities and scarecrow displays.
While many local groups, businesses and individuals create the scarecrow displays, some out-of-town residents, such as the Kiouressis family, make a special trip to participate.
Formerly of North Aurora, the Kiouressis family lives in Kenosha, Wis., and has twice traveled to St. Charles for the event, Stephanie Kiouressis said Saturday near the family's "Despicable Me" mechanical display.
The family of five spent many nights in front of the TV preparing for the event, which involved hot gluing more than 5,000 corn kernels, she said.
"It's a fun thing to do," Kiouressis said. "We really missed it last year when we didn't come."
Becker, meanwhile, hadn't been to Scarecrow Fest for about 10 years, she said.
She and her family, which includes great-grandchildren, started with such children's activities as make your own scarecrow – an activity that was popular years ago, she said.
Despite her out-of-state residency, Becker said she continues to keep up the festival.
"I love to hear about what's going on," she said.
Visit www.scarecrowfest.com for more information about Scarecrow Fest, including a schedule of events.