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Article Published September 22, 2021

Maria Yankura Ready to Scare(crow) Up Fun on North Haven Green

By Jenn McCulloch/Zip06.com

The North Haven Garden Club (NHGC) Scarecrows on the Green annual event was just gaining momentum when it had to be canceled in 2020 due to COVID. With activities and outings underway once again, the NHGC wanted to bring back the event, but the former chairperson of the Scarecrows on the Green event had stepped down.

“I didn’t see anyone stepping up to chair it, so I offered to do it,” says Maria Yankura. “People seemed sad that it wouldn’t happen so I stepped up. The past 18 months have been kind of difficult and now watching the news and feeling like there’s so much discord, I thought this could be something that’s more community oriented. It’s something people can come out and do that’s enjoyable.”

Maria is co-chairing the event with Dianna Ramadei, who also happens to be married to Maria’s brother. They joined the garden club together four years ago and have enjoyed working together.

The pair is leading the 11-person committee planning and promoting the event. Former chair Fran Notaro is also involved, helping the new chairs with contest preparations. Committee member Cindy Adinolfi created poster boards that will be displayed on the green as well flyers to be displayed in local businesses.

“We are lucky to have an enthusiastic group for this garden club project,” says Maria. “The committee is also going to create a scarecrow display so that we can be part of the fun.”

The committee is currently in the process of soliciting donations from local businesses to be used for prizes or as donations to the North Haven Community Services and North Haven Memorial Library Children’s Department.

The committee is working closely with other town and community organizations as well, including North Haven Parks & Recreation and the North Haven Library, both of which are helping to advertise the contest. Proceeds from the contest will benefit the children’s department at the library and the community services department.

Continuing with the theme, the library is accepting registrations for a Make-and-Take Scarecrow Craft Kit. Registration is underway for the kits, which must be picked up at the library on Thursday, Sept. 30. To register, visit www.northhavenlibrary.net or call 203-239-5803.

“I’m happy the proceeds go to things I support so they can continue their programs,” says Maria. “We’ve received a lot of help from Andy DelVecchio and Mike Maturo at Parks and Rec and Emily Jenkins at library. That’s been awesome.”

The registration deadline for the Scarecrow Contest is Sept. 30 and scarecrow assembly will be Saturday, Oct. 9 at 10 a.m. Different categories have been added this year in order to give more members in the community an opportunity to participate. Registration fees for tots (5 and younger), tweens (5 to 12), and teens (13 to 18) entries are $5; the family entry fee is $10, civic is $20, and business is $50.

Scarecrow displays must be family friendly. Displays must be freestanding and secure against windy weather and can involve digging by hand only and no deeper than one foot into the ground. Displays must be removed by participants by Oct. 31; anything left will be discarded.

“We want to expand it to get the whole community involved. We’re just trying to draw attention to it and see where it goes,” says Maria. “We also want the general public to come out and see the displays.”

The committee is currently working on an online voting page so community members can vote for their favorite display. Voting information will be posted on the North Haven Garden Club Facebook page.

In addition to community voting, Diana Blythe, North Haven Public School’s art director, has been invited to judges the contest with help from staff in the schools’ art departments. Maria says that Blythe was “happy to be thought of.” The judging will take place on Monday, Oct. 12.

A Return to Normal

Maria is not only happy to be a part of bringing the Scarecrows on the Green event back this year, but also to have the garden club’s meetings return to normal. Though the club had a hiatus from in-person meetings earlier during the pandemic, it has resumed its monthly meetings, which are held on the second Thursday of each month from September to June at North Haven Congregational Church.

“People can come to the meetings and observe and mingle,” says Maria. “At the meetings we share information and have different types of nature-related programming.”

Programs at meetings extend beyond gardening to include topics such as black bears, birds of the shoreline, and more. Maria joined NHGC four years ago when her cousin was one of the co-presidents.

She has always enjoyed gardening and growing up in North Haven, she has fond memories of helping her father and brothers with the garden, eventually taking it over. She now has both vegetable and flower gardens and is in the process of starting an herb garden.

Maria has also volunteered with the Connecticut Food Bank for a number of years, helping in the Wallingford office. She most recently volunteered at the annual walk, which was held on Sept. 18. Outside of volunteer work, Maria enjoys cooking, crafts, aromatherapy, and working with her rescue dog. She and her husband recently took in their fourth rescue, who is “our biggest challenge yet.”

One of Maria’s favorite things about being in the garden club is the impact she is able to make around town. NHGC plants and maintains various gardens and areas around town, including the barrels on Maple Avenue. She encourages anyone interested in gardening and nature to check out a meeting.

“Anytime I’m out working on the plants around town, people driving by slow down and say thank you. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling that people recognize what we do,” says Maria. “I like gardening and like that I have something in common with the people in the club. It’s interesting to learn about nature and be with like-minded people.”

For information on the contest, email nhgcscarecrows@gmail.com.