Last year, Wilton's ghosts and goblins were delivered a cruel trick by Mother Nature in the form of a massive, unseasonable snowstorm that threw a monkey wrench into everyone's plans.

This year, it looks as if the weekend before Halloween will be a real treat — not just in terms of the weather but in the lineup of festive activities planned by the Wilton Chamber of Commerce.

The season is already under way with the return of the crowd-pleasing Scarecrow Festival, with some 65 entries hanging from lampposts all around Wilton Center. They will form the backdrop for the annual Pumpkin Parade and Family Trick-or-Treating, the Halloween Hustle and Kids' Scarecrow Scamper on Saturday and Sunday.

The scarecrows were installed last Thursday and Friday along Old Ridgefield Road, River Road, Center Street, the town green, and Godfrey Place. There are entries from numerous businesses, including real estate agencies and banks; retailers such as krik-it, Une Minette and Stewart Flowers; nursery schools; Scout troops; school clubs; the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs; Wilton Ambulance Corps; the police and fire departments; Wilton Library; and Wilton Family Y.

"A lot of families also submitted scarecrows," said Janeen Leppert, executive director of the Wilton Chamber.

Last year the winners were the "people's choices," but this year there is a "blue ribbon" panel of judges, although the criteria for scarecrow judging was a bit elusive even to those wielding the score sheets.

The judges are Social Services Director Cathy Pierce, sculptor Peter Rubino, Schools Superintendent Gary Richards, veterinarian and Kiwanis member Kevin Craw, and Leslie Nolan, director of the Wilton Historical Society.

They will be judging in the following categories: best overall, funniest, scariest, most traditional, and most creative. The winners will be announced Saturday, Oct. 27, at 2 at the gazebo, just before the Pumpkin Parade. The winners will receive blue ribbons on their scarecrows and bragging rights for the rest of the year.

Reached at her office on Monday, Cathy Pierce said she had not yet begun her judging task. When told there were about 65 entries, she responded, "OMG! I've got some work to do."

As for her qualifications, she admitted, "I'm not really sure because I've been told I have no taste at all. I have no prior experience."

Her colleague, Gary Richards, was ahead of the game.

"I did a walk-through today and I was very impressed with the creativity and the number of them," he said on Monday. "When I agreed [to judge] I thought there would be a few. I got my exercise." He said he resorted to taking photos of the entries to remember them.

"I risked my life and limb a few times," he said with a laugh. "I was also offered some good-natured but insincere bribes."

His qualifications? "I was willing and Peg Koellmer asked me. I'm pleased to do it. Fortunately, my vote will be anonymous."

The scarecrows will remain on display until Nov. 2.

Parade and more

Once the scarecrow winners are announced, it will be time for the Annual Pumpkin Parade and Family Trick-or-Treating on Saturday from 2 to 4.

The costume parade steps off from the town gazebo at 2:15, led on a short route by Cat in the Hat and the Y's Gordy the Gator. It will likely pass by a large gathering of zombies and other ghoulish creatures at Wilton Library, all dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller as part of the Thrill the World event. It's a worldwide, simultaneous dance event that is an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.

New this year to the parade, Moments by Andrea Photography will be at the gazebo with a festive fall scene offering free professional portraits of children in their costumes (raffle prizes included) and collecting donations to benefit the Wilton Interfaith Food Pantry.

Several Wilton Center merchants will be open for post-parade trick-or-treating. This event, sponsored by the Wilton Chamber, is free to the community.

Trick-or-treaters can work off some of those treats on Sunday morning, Oct. 28, by participating in the 10th annual Halloween Hustle 5K Road Race and Kids Scarecrow Scamper Fun Run, sponsored by the Wilton Bank.

Check-in for the 5K begins at 9 at the Chamber of Commerce offices, 120 Old Ridgefield Road in Wilton Center. The race starts at 10.

The Hustle entry fee is $30 for adults and $10 for youths. Runners may register online at active.com or wiltonchamber.com.

The course for the 5K starts in Wilton Center, goes up Ridgefield Road to Lover's Lane, through the Merwin Meadows trail and the school complex with a turnaround at the field house, and back to the Merwin Meadows pavilion.

The Kids Scarecrow Scamper Fun Run starts directly after the Halloween Hustle at the Merwin Meadows pavilion, loops around the soccer field and returns back to the pavilion. The kids run is $10, which includes the special edition T-shirt and medal for all participants.

These special events are part of the Wilton Chamber's Community Involvement Program, which also includes Random Acts of Kindness in September, the Holiday Walk in December, Annual Wilton High School Scholarship Award in May, and Georgetown Gallop in June.

For more information, call Ms. Leppert at 762-0567, email info@wiltonchamber.com, or visit wiltonchamber.com.