LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Pope Francis has already been given a warm welcome in Ireland, less than a month before he is set to visit the island.
A giant-sized pope scarecrow has won the annual Durrow Scarecrow Festival.
Durrow is about 70 miles southwest of the capital, Dublin, which will host the pontiff on Aug. 25-26 for the World Meeting of Families.
The town – population 811 – began the Scarecrow Festival in 2011, and it now brings in nearly 30,000 visitors.
The main attraction is the All-Ireland Scarecrow Championship, in which teams compete to build the biggest and most intricate scarecrows you can imagine.
The competition often draws on events in the news, and scarecrows have included Donald Trump and “The Handmaid’s Bale.”
On Sunday, the Conahy Vintage Club were named the joint-winners of the competition for their towering two-story Popemobile scarecrow, which was also capable of waving to the crowd at the touch of a button.
“We always think that big is beautiful,” club chairman Michael Bergin told the Leinster Express. “There was work for everybody in it from steel to straw, overalls, shoes down to making tea and having a chat. You make it up as you go along.”
It is not the first time the group has impressed the crowds in Durrow. They won the event last year with a scarecrow called “The Greatest Show on Earth” which featured a Ferris wheel and a representation of King Kong in straw.
“People expect it [from the Conahy Vintage Club]. King Kong was higher than a two-story house, people have that expectation from this group of men,” Evelyn Clancy, the chairwoman of the Durrow Development Forum, told the Belfast Telegraph.
Francis will be the first pontiff to visit Ireland since Pope St. John Paul II in 1979.