By Ann Bryant, Staff Writer
WILTON — The Wilton Group and the Town of Wilton Events Committee have decided to move forward with the town’s Scarecrow Fest and dedicate it this year to a devoted organizer.
The Betty Shibles Memorial Scarecrow Fest and Pumpkin Derby will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, said Eileen Liddy, Wilton Group chair.
Shibles had already started planning for this year’s Scarecrow Fest before she unexpectedly passed away on Sept. 20, she said.
“This is happening because of Betty,” Liddy said. “Her family has been very supportive and we could not have done it without their help.”
The Scarecrow Fest and Pumpkin Derby is just one example of Shibles’ efforts, ones geared towards children and families, Town Manager Rhonda Irish said. She had a lot of help but the idea of the fall festival and derby was started a few years ago by her.
“Shibles’ mission was to make it better for the town, especially downtown,” Irish said. “She worked to make it a better and nicer place for children and families.”
Shibles, who grew up in Wilton, lived several years out of state and returned as a summer resident. She came back to live full time and immersed herself back in to the town, she said.
“Betty came back home and woke the town up. She was so dedicated to making her hometown better for all residents and especially children,” Irish said.
Shibles started a program that brought school children to Bass Park to plant marigolds. She started the Third Thursday program to bring the community together in the downtown area. She started a business and helped spearhead other business improvements. She went to owners of properties that needed to be fixed up and convinced them to start working on their properties, she said.
When Betty had a plan, she went and did it, a friend, Jeanne Lambert, said. She would convince me and others to “just help her with this one little thing.”
“I really admired her gall. There wasn’t any thing that she wouldn’t walk in to the middle of. If someone got upset, she never held a grudge. She’d go right back,” Lambert said.
“I knew of her growing up but came to love her dearly after she came back to Wilton,” she said.
“Betty had a wonderful heart and wonderful ideas. She put a lot of her own money in to projects for the town with no expectation of thanks or recognition. She just wanted it done,” she said. “She didn’t have an agenda. It was not about her. It was about something for the town.”
Many others saw and admired Shibles efforts to help improve Wilton.
“Betty was a relentless optimist. Even if you didn’t fully understand or buy into her plan she would just wear you down with her persistence and desire to improve things. I mean that in the best possible way,” said Angela McLeod, board president of Western Maine Play Museum. “Her desire to build a vibrant community in Wilton was obvious to everyone in town. She had a vision for what it could be and wasn’t afraid to throw everything at the wall to see what would stick. To say she had a big heart would be an understatement.”
“She is going to be missed so much,” Irish said.