Votes are still being counted in Zachary thanks to an influx of new candidates determined to steal the hearts and imaginations of school children and their families. The inaugural Zachary Elementary PTO Best Decorated Scarecrow Contest started Saturday, Nov. 7, and online voting will be open until Saturday, Nov. 14.

The Scarecrow Invasion helped contribute to a festive environment in Zachary’s Main Street, cowntown, and Historic District. The Saturday morning displays ran concurrent with the weekly Farmers Market and the Zachary Charity League Cornhole Tournament.

The fundraiser was open to entries from the schools, classrooms, families and businesses. Families purchased ballots and visited the hopefuls. Notable entries included a “Joe ‘Boo’ Row” football player scarecrow submitted by a kindergarten class, a senior couple on a bench representing an assisted living center, and a group of crayon scarecrows on Main Street representing Northwestern Elementary School.

Materials varied from traditional straw-stuffed figures to mixed medium creations. Zachary Elementary’s art teacher Courtney Yoes and music teacher Brittany Raley were drafted to take the lead on school’s entry. The creation was more of a human-sized “scare eagle” with life-like detail. Surprisingly, most of the materials were already on hand.

“We used left over foam board, fabric, paint from play props, duct tape, zip ties, fence post, rebar, baling wire, primed canvas material and hay,” Yoes said. “Funny thing is, the only thing we had to buy was zip ties and duct tape.”

Scarecrow teams paid a $25 entry fee. In-person voting ballots were purchased for $1 a vote or a set of six votes for $5. Voting continues the rest of the week. Single votes and a set of ballots can be purchased online at Pictures of all candidates are available and an online shopping cart is available to accept the donations.

Organizers hope this fundraiser will help fill the gaps left by a spring and fall of COVID-19 restrictions. “During this unsettling time, it was important for ZEPTO to host an event that brought our sweet community together, but in a responsible way,” said Afton McNatt, ZEPTO president. “Our hope is that we can continue to support our schools and teachers, even though this pandemic, in many of the same ways we have in the past.”

McNatt said 100 percent of the proceeds go back into Zachary’s elementary schools.

“With our earnings from our membership drive being substantially lower than previous years, our goal with the Scarecrow Invasion is to raise a few thousand dollars,” she said. “Together with this fundraiser and the membership dues, we hope to have enough money to give the elementary schools $8,000 in back-to-school grants. We are also looking at our budget to determine how we can still give grants to ZEPTO’s teachers at Christmas to purchase classroom supplies.”