An army of strawmen has invaded downtown.

Clinging to light posts along Main Street, 40 scarecrows, some decorated as celebrities, others as important historic figures, sprang up Sunday as part of the town’s first-ever Scarecrow Festival.

The festival, sponsored by the Andover Coalition for Education, may coincide with the Halloween season, but it is really intended to showcase what is going on in local schools, said Tina Girdwood,a former School Committee member who led the organization of ACE’s Scarecrow Festival initiative.

Tony James, a former School Committee member who now lives in Georgia but still serves on the ACE board, came up with the scarecrow festival idea, Girdwood said. His new community in Georgia hosts a similar festival every year. The ACE board liked the idea and the scarecrow decorating was embraced by the town schools.

Every school is represented, with most schools contributing more than one scarecrow to the display. West Elementary School decorated four, each crafted to look like a scientist as the school is showcasing its science program.

Proceeds benefit ACE, which has awarded some $500,000 to local schools since it was founded in 2005. It offers grants each year for innovative programs that stand to benefit students.

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