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What the Hay?


Today's Snack: Haystack Cookies: melt one cup of butterscotch chips and cup of peanut butter in the microwave for about three minutes, or until melted. Stir in cup of peanuts and 2 cups of dry chow mein noodles. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper, using the spoon to shape each lump into a "haystack." Let cool. Makes about 2 dozen.





Clean, seedless straw from a farm supply store - one compressed bale should supply enough for 10-20 students making small sculptures - if you wish, an adult can chop or shred the hay using a weed whacker or chipper-shredder machine -- or the

students can cut their own pieces with scissors


Soak the chopped hay in a large clean container in a mixture of 3 parts water to 1 part glue; the quantity depends on the amount of hay


Recycled baling wire or chicken wire, wiped clean | wire cutter | twine


Rubber bands | extra glue | old newspapers



One of the most unusual and adorable art contests in the country is the "What the Hay?" sculpture contest. It is celebrated in September in the towns of Hobson, Utica and Windham in north-central Montana. Instructions are below for students who wish to make a mini hay sculpture, but first, let's learn about the Montana display.


Locate Montana on the U.S. map, and then find those three towns within the state.


Read how the contest got started on:


The contest began in 1990. It normally has more than 50 entries, mostly created by farmers and ranchers in the area, but the contest is open to anyone from anywhere. There are two categories: adults, and children 12 and under. The only rule is that the work of art must be made of hay.


The titles tend to be very clever and incorporate the word "hay" or plays on words that have something to do with hay. They may tie in to current events, the popular culture, agricultural lifestyles and so forth. Examples: from children's TV, "Cookhay Monster," and from movies, "Straw Wars."


The hay creations are displayed along the highway connecting the three towns.


Judging is by a team of art experts - or maybe it's hay experts - and everyone celebrates with a barbecue.


Here are some past entries, as shown in the Great Falls Tribune:


Robin Loznak

Pitchforks make a crown on the 45-foot-tall "Statue of Libert Hay" during the annual What the Hay! contest near Hobson on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. About 50 hay and straw bale creations were displayed this year between the towns of Hobson, Utica and Wimdham.




Robin Loznak

"Bum Bale Bee"



Among other memorable sculptures: "Haylicopter," "Pirates of the Carhaybean," "Tonhay Lama Boots," "Ra-hay-ging Bulls," and "Pink Flhaymingo."


How about making your own hay sculpture? In a group or by yourself, come up with an idea for something that you can create in the amount of time you have, and think up a catchy name for it.


You can use a small amount of clean craft hay from a crafts store. Or, if you have a lot of students, you can buy larger amounts in compressed bales from a country supply store, usually located on the edges of a city. They might give it to you free or at a reduced price.


Here's how to "sculpt":


  1. Lay out old newspapers to catch scraps.


  1. Cut or carve hay off a bound bale . . . chop it up with a shredder or weed whacker . . . and soak it in a clean garbage can filled with one part glue to three parts of water.


  1. Squeeze the hay fairly dry, and then form it into the desired shape. Hold it together by rolling twine, wire or rubber bands around it. After it dries, you can glue fresh hay pieces over the twine to hide it, or cut off the rubber bands or wire, if you wish.


  1. Or you can shape the form in advance with bendable chicken wire and "pomp" (or stick) tufts of hay inside the openings.


  1. Or build your shape with cardboard, Styrofoam, clay or other frame structures, and hot-glue chopped hay in place.


Keep in mind that after it dries, you can spray-paint, brush-paint, add moving features, or otherwise finish your sculpture. Be sure to sweep up all excess hay and offer it to a local gardener for mulch, or to someone with guinea pigs for bedding.


Most of all, keep the sculpting process fun, and don't take too much time with it.


As the saying goes: you've got to make hay while the sun shines!


By Susan Darst Williams Art 09 2010

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