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First ever Hay Bale Decorating Contest: And the winner is ...

Published on 30 November 2010
Jan Ahrendsen hay bale decorating contest 2010

In Progressive Forage Grower's first-ever hay bale decorating contest, Jan Ahrendsen of Clutier, Iowa, was voted the winner with her family's submission of Santa Claus and a giant Christmas tree.

A total of 226 people voted in the contest.

Second place went to Tracie Phillips of Gilmore City, Iowa, with her family's submission of "Bobo" and "Dexter."

With a Halloween theme of a spider and pumpkin, Jessica Peters of Meadville, Pennsylvania, comes in third.

And fourth place went to Josh and Kala Tolman of Salmon, Idaho, with their entry of their seven-year-old twins atop a Hallowen jack-o'-lantern.

We also received an entry that we weren't able to add, as the voting process had already started. Check out the submission by Dave Meuer of Meuer Farm.

Winner Jan will receive a $50 gift certificate to Cabela's. She and each of the other participants will receive a print of the painting "Harvest Prayer" from the Issue 8 cover of Progressive Forage Grower. To find out how you can purchase a print at a discount, click here!

We also asked each of the four participants to tell us a little more about themselves and their decorated hay bales.

Tracie Phillips gingerbread hay bale

Q. How long have you been decorating hay bales?
AHRENDSEN: We have just started decorating bales this fall.  Our first bale was a pumpkin and then we did a turkey for Thanksgiving and then the tree and Santa Claus for Christmas.

PETERS: This was only my second bale decorating experience. The first was when I was about seven and my dad decided to make a 3-bale high snowman with 13 bales spelling out Happy Holidays! The paper came and took pictures, and I thought I was the coolest seven-year old around!

PHILLIPS (submission pictured at left): We have been decorating/building for eight years, and it changes every year.

TOLMAN: This is actually our first attempt at decorating hay. (My wife did all the work) This is only the 2nd year we have done a pumpkin patch.

We started it as a fundraiser (college funds) for our now seven-year old twin boys. It is a fun family project that we work on together all summer. It becomes as much of a social event for us, as it is for sales.

So this year to add a little something extra my dad set up a little hay bale maze for kids to go through after they were done picking out their pumpkins. We also set up scenic views for family photos and such.

Jessica Peters pumpkin and spider hay bales

Q. How did you come up with the design you used? What kind of planning and supplies were involved?
AHRENDSEN: We envisioned it in our head and then we sketched the plan out on paper before we placed the bales and started to paint the bales. 

We used dozens of cans of paint, thanks to them being $0.9 at WalMart.  We originally were going to put the star on top of another bale but was unable to get them to stay up and the tractor would not reach all the way to the top to put them on individually. It took numerous tries to get the
final bale configuration.

PETERS (bale submission pictured at right): The pumpkin just fit but the spider took some thought. We used tennis balls on wire for antenna and old steel rings cut out of bale feeders for the legs. (They had been sitting around for years and I'd never thought we'd find a use for them).

It took us about 3 days to plan and then apply our plan. The whole family helped out with painting, cutting the hoops, and drawing the face. It was fantastic!

PHILLIPS: My girls and I started off with little square bales and moved up to big squares. We were goofing around one day with different lengths of bales and came up with it.

The planning is making the different length bales. The supplies needed were 5 gallon bucket lids, an ice cream pail lid, spray paint, iron rods, hooks and string.

TOLMAN: My wife painted the two bales identical to represent the entrances to the maze.

Josh and Kala Tolman Jack o lantern hay bale

Q. What response have your decorated bales received from neighbors, family and friends?
AHRENDSEN: We have had overwhelming response from everyone that has seen the bales. We had people stop by the road when we were originally doing the bales and numerous people honked as they drove by due to the fact that we live along a paved road.

We have forwarded texts, e-mails, and put on facebook for all of our friends so that all family and friends can see the bales and vote for us over the next 5 days. We have even had an e-mail passed around the staff at the school for everyone to go and view the website and vote.

PETERS: I got hundreds of comments and everyone asking me want the plan was for Thanksgiving! I had wicked sweet plans for a turkey but maybe it'll happen next year.

It was a nice change of project from the normal farm chores and I believe things like that are great for public image of farms. We live on a VERY busy highway where thousands of vehicles pass everyday. With all the bad media farmers get, for people to pass a farm and see something fun like that it gives a good image.

PHILLIPS: We have had a great response from people who are driving by. From young to old and from near by to all over the U.S., people stop to take pictures.

We weren't going to build it, but we had too many requests for him, so we built it again and changed it up a little. Many folks take family photos by it to put on their Christmas cards.

The biggest question is, "How do those arms stay suspended with nothing underneath them?" The size of the man is  20 feet tall and  20 feet wide from his arms. He is just a big lovable gingerbread man named Bobo, and the little guy is Dexter. He measures 14 feet tall and 6 feet wide, for he is missing his arms.

TOLMAN (bale submission pictured above left): The neighbors actually didn't say much about it, but everyone who came to "The Little Munchkins Patch of Pumpkins" commented on the decor. We grow about 500 pumpkins on just a 1/4 acre of ground. And so far things have been pretty successful. We hope to add something new every year, and make the experience continually bigger and better.

Be sure to start thinking about your entry for the 2011 Hay Bale Decorating Contest!  FG

Dave Meuer's submission:

Dave Meuer smile hay bale