Removal of Rocky Mount scarecrow display creates controversy

Many people upset display removed

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. – A little bit of straw is all that remains of the scarecrow display that, until a few days ago, was in front of the Franklin County courthouse in Rocky Mount.

A viewer sent 10 News a photo of the display, saying people are outraged it was taken down.

A scarecrow dressed as a judge stands next to a seated scarecrow dressed as a prisoner.

On the ground in between them are pretend jugs of moonshine.

Rocky Mount Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins doesn't know why it was taken down.

"I sort of have heard the same rumors that everyone else has. The town was not responsible for it being taken down," Hankins said.

According to the circuit court clerk's office, which put up the display, Chief District Judge James Reynolds in Danville ordered the display removed but didn't say why.

On Thursday, 10 News reached out to Reynolds for comment, but did not get a response.

"You know, it is kind of sad because it was one of the more fun aspects of what we've done. They had a really creative display. But we're focused on the positive," Hankins emphasized.

He said people are coming through town to see the 50 or so displays put up by businesses and organizations as part of a contest by the nonprofit Community Partnership.

"It really shows you the impact of what a community can do when it puts its minds together," Hankins said.

Community Partnership president Donna Ray said the organization's contest is meant to be a fun way to decorate the town for fall.

She, too, does not know why the courthouse display was taken down.

She described it as cute and very popular.

"I see people constantly, they're walking -- which is a good thing. That makes people healthier. They need to walk the scarecrow trail. They're riding (around), they're taking pictures. It's been very interactive," Ray said of the displays around town.

The displays will be up until Nov. 9. People can vote on their favorite and the winner will get a prize, Ray said.

At the Southern Virginia Child Advocacy Center across the street from the courthouse, victim services director Taylor Gunter said she was sad to see the display taken down.

"It was really neat. It was just very detailed," Gunter said.

That's not scaring away her enjoyment of the seasonal decor, though.

"There's four, I think, just right here in our general area and they're all over town, so it's just really neat," she said.

"We tried to make our (display) child-friendly. This scarecrow is a child," Gunter said, gesturing to the display, which also includes a dog to represent the organization's facility dog and an 'adult' scarecrow to represent a caregiver. "We were able to get Max (the dog) in there, too. Then, the pinwheel. Pinwheels are a symbol for child abuse prevention."

Each scarecrow display around town represents the business or organization that put it up.

The clerk's office said there are no plans to put the courthouse display up anywhere else.