'Fall in Love with Ridgefield' starts Saturday

Scarecrows and selfies, window painting and music — “Fall in Love with Ridgefield” starts this weekend in a longer format designed to encourage shopping and dining without drawing big crowds all at once in this age of COVID-19.

“Fall in Love with Ridgefield” kicks off this Saturday, Oct. 17, with kids doing the traditional Halloween window painting, and a DJ providing music for people who visit Ridgefield’s village.

It will run through Saturday Oct. 31.

“It’s going to be ‘Fall in Love with Ridgefield’ over the course of two weeks,” said Mary Jones of Rodier Flowers, president of the Downtown Ridgefield merchants association, which has sponsored what is usually a weekend event for years.

Adding to the celebration will be a new “selfie contest,” with winners receiving gift certificates of $100, $75 and $50, good at any Downtown Ridgefield business. The selfie contest — “Fall in Love with Ridgefield: Where am I?” — will involve shoppers taking and posting selfie photos of themselves inside Downtown Ridgefield businesses.

“The selfies will start coming Oct. 17 to Oct. 31, and prizes will be awarded in early November,” Jones said.

“The top three creative photos will win a gift certificate to shop Downtown Ridgefield.”

In addition to the painted windows, the village commercial district will be decorated for the spooky season with scarecrows put up by the Keeler Tavern Museum and History Center as the culmination of its scarecrow contest.

People who purchased scarecrow frames have been delivering their finished work, and Keeler Tavern’s volunteers will be putting them up around the village this week.

Due to the coronavirus, people won’t be voting for their favorite scarecrow by putting paper ballots into boxes around town. People are invited to upload the Keeler Tavern’s album of scarecrow photos from its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/keelertavernmuseum and then “like” their favorite scarecrow.

“It’s kind of fun because in the scarecrow contest the residents pick the winner, but with our selfie photos contest, the merchants pick the winner,” Jones said.

“Both are interactive but one’s in reverse,” she said. “Then, I love that the prize that they win is gift certificate to shop Downtown Ridgefield.”

In keeping with the more spread out approach this year, the hours for “Fall in Love with Ridgefield” are kind of flexible.

“Whenever the shops are open,” Jones said. “I’d say there’s something to see from 10 to 5.

“And then restaurants are all participating so, once they’re done shopping, they should stay in town for a bite to eat.”

Another traditional seasonal event related to “Fall in Love with Ridgefield” that’s opening this weekend in slightly different form due to COVID-19 is Jesse Lee Church’s pumpkin patch.

Usually the church sells pumpkins grown by the Navajo tribe, which benefits from the sales. This year, the delivery and sale of real pumpkins was impractical, so church members made plywood pumpkins which are being planted in the church’s front yard along Main Street.

There will be “decoration stations” at which people can buy wooden pumpkins — for $10, $20 or $30 depending on the size — and use paint, markers, glue and glitter to jazz them up in seasonal style. They can also buy them, take them home, and deliver the decorated pumpkins back to the church for the contest judging at 3 p.m. on Oct. 25.

Jesse Lee’s pumpkin patch, the Keeler Tavern’s scarecrows, the shops and the restaurants, music and window painting — Jones said it’s all part of why so many people do fall in love with Ridgefield amid the beautiful New England autumn.

And this year may be different some ways, but the spirit is the same.

“Merchants are so happy to have the shoppers back in town. It was difficult for everyone when the doors had to close,” Jones said. “But we still have the most beautiful downtown, with such wonderful merchants, and they can’t wait to welcome everyone back into their stores.”