Kurow's "hay family" has been destroyed by a fire which residents believe was arson.
Firefighters were unable to save the characters, made from nine hay bales, after they were alerted to the blaze about 3am yesterday.
The Slee family from Kurow has been putting up the tourist attraction for 30 years, which this year featured minions from the movie Despicable Me.
Janina Slee said the bales had been set alight once before but this was the first time they had been destroyed by fire.
While it's possible the bales had spontaneously combusted, she believed it was more likely they were set on fire.
"It's very disappointing. It's not really an attack on the community, but it feels like it."
The bales alone cost at least $100 each, she said.
Kurow Constable Craig Bennett was shocked at the news. He was on leave at the time of the event, but said he would be investigating the matter.
He was well aware of the hard work that had gone into creating the eye catching hay bale characters.
"[It is disappointing] if someone has taken it upon themselves to do this without ... thinking of the effort that's gone into them by the community," he said.
"They've been hugely popular - [there have been a lot of] families stopping there with their kids to get photos with the minions. Someone has decided to take it on their own ... that people don't deserve the pleasure of enjoying the work."
Chief fire officer John Sturgeon, of the Kurow Volunteer Fire Brigade, said the bales were alight when crews arrived. He said the bales were "certainly" deliberately lit.
"We suspect a passerby set them alight and scarpered out of town."
Crews had extinguished the blaze by 5am but were called back at 7am when it reignited.
"We put a huge amount of water on to put them out before we left at 5am. They retain their heat and reignite themselves quite easily."
He described the act as "mean".
"[The hay people have] become an icon. The amount of interest by the passing public we've had is absolutely incredible. There's been people from all around the world stopping there to take photos this Christmas period."
- The Timaru Herald