EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 22, 2013

Bill Gates scarecrow draws fire; Youths suspected of burning

ANDOVER — Bill Gates drew some fire on Sunday, but it wasn't for his fiery opinions.

Rather, a scarecrow bearing Gates' likeness crafted by West Elementary School students as part of a downtown scarecrow festival was set ablaze just hours after it was placed on display on a Main Street light post.

The scarecrow is one of 40 decorating downtown as part of the Andover Coalition for Education's first scarecrow festival involving the town's 10 public schools, according to ACE President Tina Girdwood.

Students spent Sunday afternoon working with members of ACE as well as business and community leaders in setting up the scarecrows all along Main Street.

Then at 7:32 p.m., a caller reported to police that "two youths wearing black hoodies" lit the Bill Gates scarecrow displayed in front of the Andover Historical Society at 97 Main St. on fire. The scarecrow, wearing a full suit and featuring a stuffed head resembling Bill Gates, was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Andover.

The caller, who reported putting the fire out, said the suspects were seen running south on Main Street toward Phillips Academy, according to the police report.

Police were unable to locate the suspects. Phillips Academy security were notified to be on the lookout, according to the report.

Yesterday, the straw coming out of the right hand of the Bill Gates scarecrow was burned up to the suit's cuff, which was also damaged when the stuffed figure was lit on fire.

The Bill Gates scarecrow was one of four created by West Elementary School students to depict "famous scientists."

Girdwood said the vandalism is "a shame. Our students worked hard on their scarecrows."

The incident, however, will not affect the festival, she said. The scarecrows will remain on display though Sunday, when the festival will culminate with a Festive Gathering at noon. The free event at Old Town Hall on Main Street will feature Andover High School vocal groups, a presentation by Superintendent Marinel McGrath and refreshments.

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