Look, it's 'Miley Silage'... The weird and wonderful at Ireland's biggest scarecrow festival
You could be mistaken into thinking you’ve just seen Miley Cyrus swinging from her infamous wrecking ball in the town of Durrow, Co Laois.
However, it’s actually Miley’s straw cousin, Miley Silage, and one of the winners of last year’s Durrow Scarecrow Festival.
The festival, now in its sixth year, has attracted worldwide attention with one eager contestant set to transport a scarecrow over 5,000km from America for this year's competition.
A committee of 12 local people run the annual festival, and it’s not just any old scarecrow that will make the cut for a winner’s title.
Straw versions of One Direction, Garth Brooks, President Michael D Higgins and Rapunzel have all graced the town square of Durrow in recent years.
“Last year we had a record attendance of 18,000 people at the festival,” the committee’s PRO Marian Mahoney told Independent.ie.
“It’s a community based festival run completely by volunteers. We have a committee of 12 all year round and then, come the August week, we would have about 100 local volunteers taking part.
“The purpose is a fundraiser for the local community. As a result, we’ve had a lot of work done to the square in Durrow. All the money goes back into the community.”
But Marian, who lives in nearby Cullahill, agrees the main attraction of the community gathering is the bizarre selection of scarecrows on show.
“I suppose the festival does sound very odd, until you’ve been there you don’t understand.
“People come back year after year and they tell hundreds of people to come too, the quirkiness definitely attracts people.
“It is a nine-day event so if people can’t make it while passing through the first time, they always make the effort to make it on the way back.
“It did start as a festival of friendship and it was a much smaller weekend event, but we changed the name to the Durrow Scarecrow Festival after all the feedback we got from people who’d been here.
“Now every year we try and add something new.”
This year’s big reveal of the scarecrows and their straw-headed competition will happen when the entry forms and scarecrows are submitted this weekend.
“We don’t have a lot of entries yet because the locals keep their ideas close to their chests,” Marian explained.
“I’m not 100pc sure of what’s coming in, people will leave it until the deadline to reveal their ideas.
“This year it’s 100 years since Laois won the All-Ireland Senior Hurling final so the committee have put together a team of scarecrows in the village, they all have county jerseys on them and the Laois, Kilkenny and Dublin jerseys are signed by the current teams.”
The competition has become so fierce in recent years that strict rules have been put in place for this year’s entrants.
“We have four judges, and they’ve been around for the last couple of years,” Marian said.
“They’ve spent a lot of time judging the scarecrows as the competition grew and grew, but there were never really any boundaries or rules. It was hard for judges because they were trying to pick a winner and they weren’t judging like by like.
“This year we’ve put criteria in place in relation to the use of straw and, rather than the judges looking at all the different aspects of the scarecrows, we’ve each judge looking at something different, like one focusing on the design and appearance.
“This will bring a greater consistency to the scoring, they’re a super group of people.”
Picking a personal favourite is a tough one, but Marian said ‘Miley Silage’ will always stick out in her mind as being an A-class scarecrow.
“It’s a difficult question, but Miley Silage was one everybody found funny.
“There’s been a huge media interest in some of the scarecrows when some are posted and shared online, and Miley got the social media award last year.”
The Durrow Scarecrow Festival will receive entries from all over the country and will run in the village from Sunday, July 26 to Monday, August 3.
The scarecrows will be the highlight but there will also be an arts and crafts exhibition, bouncing castles, treasure hunts, traditional hay-making, summer camps, face painting and more.