SCARECROWS have been used since ancient times as guardians of crops, and the students of Conondale State School have the best plant bodyguards around.
Four mighty scarecrows now stand watching over their newly established Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden, which they have been working hard to cultivate for the past year.
Their quirky characters, which were top secret until The Range News was given a sneak peek, will be among many competing for the chance to be named the best of the best at a small-scale scarecrow festival to mark the school's centenary celebrations on Saturday.
While judging and prizes will be handed out at the school on the weekend, it is just the beginning for the annual Mary Valley Scarecrow Festival.
The festival starts on Saturday and will run until October 28.
Conondale State School teacher Jan Gray said families and members of the community who entered the school's competition would qualify for the much larger regional version if they had filled out the correct entry form.
"We are getting into the swing of things and it will be a bit of fun for the centenary," Ms Gray said.
"It's only $5 to enter and scarecrows must be set up around the garden by Friday afternoon."
Expanding from humble beginnings in Maleny in 1998, the Mary Valley Scarecrow Festival has become a staple of the community, welcoming in spring every year.
Last year's artistic winner was a green-and-gold-clad sportscrow called A Good Sport, while second place was awarded to the creator of a version of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
One of the festival co-ordinators, Carol Miller, said while there had not been many whisperings of what we could expect to see this year, entrants never failed to disappoint.
"We expect to see a variety of scarecrows. There's some hidden talent in the valley," she said.
"We've got a few scarecrows from previous years that have been renewed. One of them has gone from being a bit of a bum, hanging over fences and stealing bread, to becoming somewhat of a businessman and selling flowers."
The festival website will feature a comprehensive map which marks the location of all of the registered scarecrows so families can pack a picnic and spend the day exploring the hinterland.
Celebrity judges Peter Wellington and ABC presenter Rob Blackmore will have a task on their hands later this month when they have to help select the winners.
For more information, or to register for the People's Choice vote, visit scarecrows.org.au.