Saloon gal Diamond Lil and the barkeep watch over a serious hand of poker in the Whistle Stop Saloon. Photo by Ken Beck
GRANVILLE, Tenn. -- Reminiscent of a classic episode of “The Twilight Zone” or a spin-off of Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn,” a silent horde of scarecrows have invaded tiny Granville in Jackson County.
These real-life-looking creatures arrived by design, mainly the handiwork of California expatriate Cynthia Rawlings Matthews, just in time for the community’s first Scarecrow Walk, which debuted at Granville Fall Celebration on Oct. 5 and continues through Halloween.
More treat than trick, 30 scarecrows patterned after citizens from Granville’s past will haunt several historical buildings. The mute stars include turn-of-the-20th-century whiskey maker Hop T. Lee and saloon gal Diamond Lil, who both fit nicely in the Whistle Stop Saloon & Daniels Ice Cream Parlor, while barber L.B. Carter trims a youth’s mop of hair in the barber shop/post office.
“People from California to Pennsylvania are having scarecrow festivals, but Granville has historical characters telling the story,” said Liz Bennett, who grew up here and now lives in Rutherford County but returns often to serve as a teller of Granville tales.
“The Scarecrow Walk is a group of folk art creatures and traditional scarecrows that tell the history of Granville in an enjoyable and entertaining fashion.
“The idea is when you arrive for the Scarecrow Walk, you pick up a guide and follow the walk so the characters will tell you the Granville story. The tour will start at the Whistle Stop Saloon. If you wish, you may schedule a tour and a guide,” said Bennett, noting a Ghost Walk will hit its stride Oct. 25-26.
During the month of October, approximately 100 scarecrows will inhabit Granville, over half of them homemade. The idea for the scarecrow festival arrived from the fertile mind of Matthews, who operates the Granville Emporium inside the oldest house in town, which dates to circa 1830.
Master scarecrow maker Matthews purchased a house here eight years ago, fixed it up and moved in 3 1/2 years ago.
“I sort of stole it (the idea). I came from Cambria, Calif., where three years ago they started a scarecrow festival with 30 scarecrows and are now up to 330 scarecrows,” said Matthews.
But Granville’s scarecrows stand out says the former aircraft design engineer.
“They’re unique because of the historical aspect. The rest of them (the other festivals) are just average scarecrows. No other town has done a walking guided tour,” said Matthews, who birthed her first historical scarecrow, saloon singer Diamond Lil, in May.
She crafts her autumnal creatures using PVC stands, plastic bags stuffed with newspapers for their shapes and Styrofoam forms for faces. Then she paints their faces and costumes them in period clothing.
“I can make one in two to three days, and it takes about nine to 10 hours,” said Matthews, adding that she would like to date whiskey maker Hop Lee. “He’s handsome, well-dressed. He looks like Robert E. Lee.” Matthews is not the sole scarecrow inventor.
A number of Granville residents and volunteers have joined in the scarecrow frenzy and will be displaying traditional scarecrows in their yards. And students in Jackson County High School art teacher Nancy Pruett’s class have created scarecrows that will reside here in the Village of the Artists. There also are four scarecrow contests.
“We’re having a contest for historical characters, one for traditional scarecrows and a category for children under 12,” said Bennett. The winners were announced Saturday, but the peoples’ choice category winner will not be named until Friday, Oct. 25.
The Scarecrow Walk will be open noon-3 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday throughout October and is free. There will be 25 more scarecrows hanging around Sutton’s Homestead and the Pioneer Village for which a fee of $5 for adults, $4 for ages 62 and older, and $3 for ages 6-12 will be charged.
Granville’s population holds 300 humans within a two-mile radius, but the scarecrows will boost that by 33 percent between now and Halloween, while more than 3,000 tourists are anticipated for Saturday’s big event.
“I think the goal is to have something real unique and to have quality,” said Bennett of the lurking creatures who are not really scary at all. “We want people to say, ‘Oh, my goodness, how did they do that?’”
The scarecrow invasion seems destined to become an annual event as Matthews says, “Yeah, it will grow. We’re gonna do it next year. I think it tickles the funny bone. It’s whimsical and it’s fun.
“I just like making things. My coming to Granville has given me time and purpose to stretch myself and do what I feel like doing,” said Matthews, who discovered the Cumberland River hamlet while attending her son-in-law’s family reunion.
“Granville is like Brigadoon, this fabulous place, but it doesn’t disappear,” she said. “It is what it appears to be. The majority of the population volunteer to keep it alive and make it active.”