Joe’s Scarecrow Village isn’t your average roadside attraction. It’s creepy actually, if you don’t know the history. And even if you stop at Joe’s - and you will probably find it hard to resist the siren call of that unforgettable ring of stuffed characters as you make your way along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island - you may still find the whole thing a bit unsettling.
In the 1980s, Joe Delaney tried to plant a garden in Cap le Moine, Cape Breton, just down the road from Chéticamp in Nova Scotia. As the story goes, Joe planted his garden and hoped for the best, but crows pillaged his vegetables time and time again. Joe’s neighbors didn’t believe he could grow anything in the rocky, salty soil of his seaside backyard, or fight the scavenging crows, so they joked he should grow scarecrows instead.
Inspired by his interest in traditional Mi-Careme, the francophone mid-Lent celebration where revelers eat, drink, dance, and dress in grotesque, elaborate costumes, Joe placed two gaudy scarecrows in his garden. He was surprised the next day when some travelers stopped to admire his creations. The rest - including 50 or more new scarecrows made by Joe and his son - is legend. See Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, members of KISS, and many more madcaps each with their own funny story at Joe’s Scarecrow Village.
At the end of the 1986 season on the eve of Armistice Day, Joe’s Scarecrow Village was vandalized in what Delaney called the 1986 Massacre. 45 of the 46 scarecrows were destroyed—broken and cut apart. Delaney named the only remaining scarecrow “Rory” and dubbed him the lone survivor of the massacre. Delaney wrote an article, in the voice of Rory asking people to help repair the scarecrow village. The article was published in a local newspaper and Delaney received an outpouring of support including donations of old clothing and financial contributions. The following season Delaney rebuilt the scarecrow village which grew to over 100 scarecrows.
The village closed in 2011 and the Scarecrows are indeed gone, however there is a Mi-carême interpretive Centre in Grand Étang depicting the same traditions that Joe Delaney depicted with his scarecrows. A beautiful centre chalked full of fun and stories of the Acadians and the tradition of wearing a mask.
Know Before You Go
The Mi-carême interpretive Centre is in Grand Étang, South of Chéticamp on the Cabot Trail, near St-Joseph-du-Moine and Cap le Moine - the original site of the scarecrow village, which closed in 2011