EDMONDS — It was late afternoon Monday and schoolteacher Marjie Bowker had briefly stopped home before heading to a meeting when there came a knock at the door.
She wasn’t expecting anyone — especially the prominent man standing before her.
“I must have had a really funny look on my face because he said, ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’” Bowker said.
It was no ghost, it was the travel guru himself, Rick Steves.
What’s up with that?
Steves had dropped by her Daley Street home to check out his namesake, Rick Franken-Steves, a 6-foot-3 creature she’d made for the Edmonds Historical Museum Scarecrow Festival contest.
“I enjoyed scaring Marjie,” Steves said in that same colloquial tone he uses on TV. “To stand on her porch, she had Franken-Steves and Rick Steves at the same time, and it was almost too much for her to bear. So I brought a little Halloween to her early.”
The scarecrow’s sculpted face uncannily resembles Steves. Ditto for the mannequin bod clad in tan chinos and a blue T-shirt with his famous “Keep on Travelin’” motto.
Its teeth are made out of lima beans, the eyes are doll eyes, the hair and eyebrows are straw. Even so, the results are a handsome monster, complete with a shiny foil bolt thing sticking out of his neck.
“I think the face is a very good likeness, in a Frankenstein kind of way,” Steves said. “It’s got the essence of me, with the map and plane ticket and money belt and day bag. It’s odd to see yourself as a Frankenstein, and I thought it worked.”
Has Steves had other things made in his likeness?
“I’ve had cartoonists do me and stuff but, nope, I’ve never been a Halloween costume, so I’m right there with all the goblins and the ghouls,” Steves said.
Bowker gives the design credit to her boyfriend Greg Strzempka, a Kitsap County musician and artist who spent several weeks perfecting the details.
“He painted his face green first, but it just didn’t look good,” Bowker said. “He wanted to put a bong in his hand.”
Bowker, an English teacher at Scriber Lake High School, nixed that idea.
“My favorite part is his smile,” she said.
The annual Scarecrow Festival is serious stuff in Edmonds. The six categories drew 103 entries. In the business category, Rick Steves’ Europe has an Italian scarecrow, Fieno the Gondolier. Winners, based on online and paper ballot voting, will be announced at a reception Monday. First-placers get a museum membership, valued at $25, and bragging rights.
“It’s fun for Edmonds to have all these scarecrows around,” Steves said. “It’s something everybody looks forward to, and it was quite a buzz when my staff started saying, ‘Hey, there’s Franken-Steves just up the street. Check it out.’”
This is Bowker’s fourth year entering the contest. She placed second and third in the past. She wanted a first.
Over the summer, she and Strzempka were at a pub that had a display of local icons that included Steves. “Greg said something like, ‘Edmonds has created its own monster.’”
Fast forward a few months. “I was saying I’ve got to come up with something really good for my scarecrow this year,” Bowker said. “And he said, ‘Rick Franken-Steves.’”
Bowker had never met Steves in person, but said for years he has influenced the way she travels. She taught overseas in Vietnam, Norway and China.
Next week, she leaves for India to chaperone six Washington high school students, including one from Edmonds, on a delegation with Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib to meet the Dalai Lama. The meeting will be live-streamed at 5 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, which is across the street from where Franken-Steves has turned many heads during the past two weeks.
“If I didn’t work I would just sit here and watch people all day,” Bowker said. “It’s fun to see people walk by. There was a woman on her bike and she almost crashed.”
Her first brush with fame in Edmonds was in 2017 for her frisky chicken named Chloe.
“She attacked a postal worker,” Bowker said. “I had gotten a letter in the mail that she had a propensity to attack and that I should lock her up.”
A week later, Chloe escaped to havoc the streets of Edmonds and was apprehended.
“I went over to the courthouse … and they led me back to a little room and there was like a jail cell in the corner and my chicken Chloe was behind bars. I had to spring her out,” she said. “I became known for being the Chicken Lady.”
When Bowker moved to Daley Street a year ago she had to re-home Chloe.
Will she have to re-home Franken-Steeves?
“He said, ‘After Halloween could we buy it from you?’” she said. “I can’t think what else I’d do with Rick Steves’ head. That would be pretty cool if it lived on.”