Scarecrows used to get respect.

Decades ago, a solitary scarecrow was entrusted to keep capable watch over an entire field. They lorded over every stalk, every struggling grain, every square foot of sun-drenched crop.

Scarecrows took no holidays, no bathroom breaks, no weekends away to leaf-peep with the wife and kids.

In rain and wind, through chilled nights and humid days, and in unflattering farmer hand-me-downs, those straw-filled men stood proud.

But through the years, our admiration waned. Maybe it was the realization that scarecrows did little, in truth, to deter crows and other field pests.

Or maybe it was the fact that waking up in the middle of the night to see a disheveled man with a burlap sack for a head staring you down through the bedroom window under the light of a full moon was, in the end, a little creepy. Puts the term “stalker” into a whole new cornfield perspective.

These days, the paunchy former farm workers are relegated to wide country porches and makeshift pumpkin patches on suburban lawns. They reluctantly play the part of dim-witted strawbag because it beats the alternatives — like a leading role in 2004’s “Scarecrow Gone Wild” — only to be disassembled after Thanksgiving and traded in at the local thrift store for a broken Christmas nutcracker.

It’s a hard fall, even for a guy stuffed with stalks of barley.

But Kennebunkport’s annual Gathering of the Scarecrows is giving scarecrows and the people who love them a chance to celebrate the solitary soldiers — tattered plaid shirts, overalls, straw innards and all.

It’s also a chance for the typically silent strawmen to socialize.

The event launched on Monday with the Scarecrow Craft Fair — complete with a scarecrow wedding — at Nonantum Resort. Thirty crafters set to work bringing scarecrows to life, and the entire straw-filled troupe is currently on display throughout Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.

Area visitors can vote on their personal favorite through Friday by slipping an entry into the pumpkin located in front of Colonial Pharmacy, 40 Dock Square, Kennebunkport.

On Saturday, the scarecrows take to the streets during the Gathering of Scarecrows parade from 1 to 3 p.m. Participants are encouraged to dress as scarecrows or carry one in the parade, which starts at the monument in Dock Square and travels to the Green.

At the parade’s end, scarecrows and scarecrow carriers will find a host of activities to wile away the afternoon.

Sunday’s Wicked 5K road race begins at Nonantum Resort and leads runners and walkers through the streets of Kennebunkport, ending at Federal Jack’s Brew Pub. Participants are also encouraged to wear costumes, scarecrow or otherwise.

All those who cross the finish line can fill up on light fare and Old Thumper Ale. The scarecrows likely won’t eat much; they’re already stuffed.

But it’s a good time to raise a glass to our old field-watching friends to say “Thanks for putting up with all the crop.” 

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at: [email protected]