If you happen to be driving down Mitchell Road in Cape Elizabeth and spot a bloody headless horseman on  a white steed, don’t freak out.

It’s not a Halloween nightmare come to life. It’s just one of many scarecrows that have been popping up in the area over the past month, hoping to win a prize in the second annual town-wide scarecrow contest.

Organized by the Pond Cove Parents Association, the contest will be officially over by the time you read this, but Cape Elizabeth residents are expected to leave their funky creations standing through Halloween.

Results will be posted on its website, www.capepcpa.org/Harvest_Festival.htm.

Scarecrows — scary, whimsical and funny — are making a big comeback. Several towns around southern Maine have been holding scarecrow contests in the fall during their harvest festivals, and families are jumping right in.

Wiscasset just held its big scarecrow festival — the scarecrows will be left up through Friday — and Ogunquit had one as part of its annual OgunquitFest.

CLEVER IDEAS

Residents of Cape Elizabeth have come up with all kinds of clever ideas, including a “Scare Wash” where the price of a ghoulish car wash is “3 Bones.” A local rehab center put a scarecrow on crutches, and a certain young wizard has been reincarnated as “Scary Potter.”

One family made two scarecrows, one that looks like President Obama and one that looks like Mitt Romney, standing at debate podiums made out of cardboard.

“It’s very cool that they’re coming back. They’re very sweet,” said Elizabeth Scifres, who made a Charlie Brown scarecrow for the Cape Elizabeth contest with her husband, Aaron, and two children, 8-year-old Abigail and 5-year-old Declan.

The family entered the contest last year as well, with a scarecrow that they called “Scared of the Crow,” “and he had a crow on him, and he was looking really scared.”

Scifres said her children love “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and wanted to do something with that theme.

“They really wanted to do Linus when he falls into the big pile of leaves and has leaves all stuck to his giant sucker, but I wasn’t sure we could pull that one off,” Scifres said.

So they went with Charlie Brown instead. They used a wooden cross as a frame and trimmed it down so the scarecrow wouldn’t be too tall.

They made Charlie’s iconic shirt with a black sharpie and stuffed it with grocery bags. The more traditional straw, Scifres said, doesn’t hold up well in rain.

“It gets really heavy and moldy, and it kind of drags down,” she said. “Last year, we used leaves that we raked up from the yard.”

Charlie’s head is a white pumpkin secured with plenty of craft wire. Snoopy is made from an old pillowcase and two black socks, and his nose is made from black electrical tape. There’s even a likeness of Woodstock made out of a yellow wash cloth.

FAMILY FRIENDLY

Bob MacDonald, facilities and programs coordinator for the Wiscasset Parks and Recreation Department, says his favorite thing about the town’s annual scarecrow festival is that it’s something families can do together.

“The part that I love about it is the parents don’t stand off to the side while the kids build the scarecrow,” he said. “It’s a fun family project.”

Bonnie Blagdon, special events coordinator, starts putting signs out in September asking residents to donate clothing for the scarecrows. To hang the clothes, the parks and rec department makes wooden crosses from strapping obtained from a local lumber company, and donated milk jugs become the scarecrows’ heads.

“Some people bring their own clothes, and they’re a riot,” Blagdon said. “One little boy made a dog last year out of a suit coat. We’ve had Sarah Palin.”

The scarecrows are stuffed with straw and secured into the ground in front of the Parks and Rec department, right in the middle of one of the curves that goes through town. When people drive around the curve, they get an eyeful.

“People come around that corner, it’s so funny,” Blagdon said. “They think there’s some kind of  protest going on.”

Staff writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad