Every October, Cambria's modest population of less than 7,000 creeps up a bit—at least temporarily. During this autumn month, community spirit rouses new inhabitants who line the streets of this way-out town's East and West Villages. Some of these short-lived guests have familiar faces, others resemble figments of the imagination, and some are just plain scary. But all have one thing in common: They are the Cambria scarecrows.
As a tradition that began in 2009, this year's nearly 400 fanciful harvest helpers adorn the art shops, churches, restaurants, beverage houses, and other beguiling businesses that make this California Central Coast town such a favored stop on Highway 1. During this season, when many parts of the country slip quietly into brisk fall weather, Cambria's neck of the woods shines bright in the midst of its warm Indian Summer.
My visit over the weekend granted blue skies touched with light, feathery clouds and temperatures that inched up to around 80 degrees—perfect conditions for scarecrow stalking. Lured by these intriguing, fleeting villagers who bask in the glowing weather, as well as the promise of rolling landscape dotted with fresh pine trees and a dazzling coastline, San Luis Obispo County's small Bohemian town was well worth the visit.
| During October's thirty one days, Cambria's Scarecrow Festival drives community spirit to come alive. |
The town's businesses welcome their annual scarecrows, as well as scores of visitors.
|Santa Rosa Catholic Church brought bystanders this class act of Scary Habits.|
|The Wise Owl conceived of its own, unique nocturnal bird of prey, while a local 4-H group breathed life into a tin man. Slabtown Rollers wowed everyone with a spoke-turning, spinning group of "cyclists through the ages", while The Painted Lily Gallery displayed Heavens to Betsy, an exquisite creation by local artist Sara Blair-Field.|
|You probably recognize Marilyn Monroe and Mary Poppins. But who's on the left? That's actor Jimmy Stewart and his invisible friend Harvey.|
|Mexican artist Frida Kahlo sits outside Las Cambritas restaurant, while the beloved character Edward Scissorhands helps lure customers in need of a haircut at the Hair Port.|
|Cambria, neatly tucked away between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is the home to many inventive businesses. Wives, feel free to drop off your husbands at Cambria Ale House while you take in the rest of the free-flowing shops.|
|The artful scarecrows found their way to other parts of Cambria. The hotels and restaurants on Moonstone Beach Drive also got into the act. From left to right: a great white shark devours an unfortunate fisherman at The Sea Chest Oyster Bar; a plein air artist captures the local view at Pelican Inn & Suites; a skydiver meets a tree at Fog Catcher Inn.|
|These poor souls took their last ride at The Blue Whale Inn and Little Sur Inn.|
|I don't suppose my day of exploration would have been complete without some wine tasting. Beckoned outside by a vinous vixen, I howled with the moon at Twin Coyotes Winery on Main Street. Within the cool interior of their tasting room, I found the crisp white vermentino, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay particularly alluring on this warm fall afternoon. Twin Coyotes belongs to the Pacific Coast Wine Trail, a group of seven coastal wineries that stretch from San Simeon to Cayucos. I have no doubt that I'll be back for more reconnaissance.|
Even though I don't visit Cambria as often as I should, I'm pleased that I went out to experience the local wine...the fabulous weather...the community spirit...and especially, the imaginative scarecrows. After all, these festive events bring a little splash to life.
|Wave splash at Moonstone Beach in Cambria.|