PARTS OF bodies lie everywhere. "Pick up his eye," calls a mother to her young son kneeling amid the carnage. Another mom emphatically cautions: "Melanie! Be careful with his head."
This isn't a scene from "Day of the Dead," but rather the combined effort of families to breathe life into limp thrift-shop clothing using straw, twine and lots of imagination. Kids, dressed in clothes that aren't afraid of getting dirty, are busy stuffing forty bales of straw into shirts, socks, pantyhose and pint-sized Lee denims.
Their energy is raising dusty straw clouds in the corral at Watkins Regional Park's Fifth Annual Kinderfest in Upper Marlboro. They're making scarecrows.
Making a scarecrow is actually pretty easy once you've got all the materials, and workshops like this one provide everything, including a bit of instruction. About a dozen such events are taking place this month in the greater Washington area.
Compared to a quick roll down the supermarket aisle past plastic masks, vampire fangs, fake blood and candy corn, this autumnal activity is a more traditional way of getting into the Halloween spirit.
"For some reason, people have this attraction to scarecrows," says Mark Baron, whose red-and-white suspenders proclaim "Scarecrow Artist." Based in Silver Spring, Baron has been leading workshops nationwide for the past six years. "It's something that makes people happy."
What makes Bowie 5-year-old Eric Ozimek the happiest is stuffing the straw. It took half an hour to make his scarecrow, sans legs. For his older sister Jessica, the project rated as the day's best activity "because I got to make it myself."
The results tend to be humorous monuments to disproportion: five-foot legs connected to tiny trunks and heads the size of Brunswick bowling balls resting precariously between narrow shoulders.
"It's excellent for kids because it gives them a chance to participate," says Delleane McKenzie of nearby Upper Marlboro as her four-year-old son Robert grimaces beneath the strange weight of his lifeless scarecrow, like a beach lifeguard carrying a rescued swimmer from the surf. He hasn't named him yet, but is most proud of how he made the hair, which sticks out randomly all over the place.
Function appears likewise random.
Chuckie Atwell, nine, of Annapolis is going to slump his strawman in a front-porch lawn chair to scare trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
Eight-year-old Nelissa Okamoto of Bowie has other ideas. She's making last-minute repairs to her scarecrow named Bobby, built to her own specifications. Is he the ideal dream man?
"I'm going to hang him in the garden," she says. Now that's scary.
SHEAVES IN THE SLEEVES
Here's where you can make your own scarecrow during October.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY -- Germantown October Festival (off I-270 take Rte. 118 into Germantown to stoplight; turn right on Aircraft Road, follow signs to festival). 11 to 3, $3 per scarecrow. 540-1300.
OLD POST OFFICE -- in front of 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 1:30 to 3:30, free. 289-4224.
FAIRFAX CITY -- City Hall Lawn, Armstrong and University Avenue (take I-66 to Rte. 123; make left on Armstrong), noon to 4, free. 385-7858.
ANNE ARUNDEL -- Kinder Park, Jumpers Hole Road, Severna Park, Md. (take Rte. 50 east to Rte. 301 north; make right on Benfield Boulevard, then left onto Jumpers Hole Road; follow signs one mile to park), 11 to 3, $5 per scarecrow. 301/621-9552.
SILVER SPRING ARMORY -- Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street, Silver Spring (from Beltway, take Georgia Avenue to right on Wayne), 11 to 3, $3. 585-5564.
CHARLES COUNTY -- Gilbert Run Park, Rte. 6, Dentsville, Md., (from Beltway take Branch Avenue Exit; go south 45 minutes to Rte. 6; make left; park is nine miles on left), 2 to 4, $2.50. 870-3388.
CARLISLE, PENNSYLVANIA, ARTS FESTIVAL -- St. John's Episcopal Church, intersection of Hanover and High streets. Take I-81 north; exit on Hanover Street, which leads directly to festival. 11 to 3, $4. 717/245-2648.
APPLE FESTIVAL -- Farmers Market, Saratoga and Holiday streets, Baltimore (take Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which becomes Russell Street; make right on Pratt Street, to left on Calvert Street; continue to right on Lexington; next block is Holiday Street), Baltimore, 10 to 1, free. 301/837-4636.
BELTSVILLE RECREATION CENTER -- 3900 Sellman Road, Beltsville (Beltway Exit U.S. 1 north; go 1 mile and make a left on Montgomery Road; left at light; center is 4 blocks on the right), 2 to 4, $2. (Limited to 100 people; pre-registration). Children must supply shirt, pants, pantyhose. 937-6613.
FOREST HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL -- 200 Talbert Drive, Forest Heights(from Beltway, take Exit 3-B, Indian Head Highway, left at light at Livingston Road, immediate right on service road. Make left on Talbert Drive which dead-ends at the school), 10:30 to 12:30, $1 per scarecrow. 248-1260.
BALTIMORE -- Instersection of Boston Street and Lakewood Avenue (from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway take Pratt Street to right on Eastern Avenue; make right on Lakewood Avenue), Baltimore, 12:30 to 6:30, $2 per scarecrow. 301/396 -- 5413.
ARTISAN CRAFT FAIR -- Frederick County Fairgrounds, Frederick, Md, (take I-270 to first Frederick exit; make right on Patrick Street; follow signs to fairgrounds). 11:30 to 4, $3. 301/258-9387.