By RUSSELL JONES
Despite the fall chill in the air on Sunday, hundreds of residents made their way out to Estabrook Park in Brandon to take part in Harvestfest, the town’s annual celebration of the season.
There were plenty of activities for guests to participate in, including a bouncy castle for the kids, hayrides for all, and music and dancing. The Neshobe PTO had tables on which children painted and the Brandon Free Public Library was giving away children’s books.
But the main attraction was the building of the famous “leaf people.”
The “leaf people” are a mysterious bunch. Despite the name, not one leaf is used in their making. Rather, a wooden frame is used for the body that is topped by a burlap sandbag to make the head. Attendees of the Harvestfest then pick out clothes, hats, gloves and shoes to dress their leaf person.
After dressing, members from the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce assist in putting the finishing touches on the leaf people using staple guns, hot glue and screws to attach fashion accessories.
No one was quite sure how long the leaf-people tradition has been going on in Brandon, but several guests remembered building them with their parents over 20 years ago. This is the third year that they have been built in Estabrook Park.
“We brought it here when construction started on Route 7,” said Brandon Recreation director Bill Moore. “It’s been getting bigger every year. There’s so much more room and its safer here because people don’t have to try to cross the busy road to get where they’re going.”
Visitors were encouraged to pay $5 for each leaf person they built this year. This was the first year that the Chamber has charged for the leaf people. The Chamber website did say that if cash was tight and it was a burden, just mention it to the cashier and a Brandon-area resident could take one home for free.
“The cost of materials has just gotten so ridiculous, a roll of burlap is $100,” said Chamber executive director Bernie Carr. “We’re just trying to recoup some of the costs this year because it has gotten to be so expensive.”
The 144 leaf people that were built on Sunday will soon start appearing on the side of roads all over Brandon as a sign of one of Vermont’s most striking seasons. And, perhaps like scarecrows, which also happen to be made with zero crows and keep the birds from gathering in the fields, maybe the leaf people will help discourage leaves from gathering in the yards of those whose houses they protect.
With the fall season humming along at a brisk pace, and leaves already filing up, those who built leaf people on Sunday can only hope.