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And after all that, “people come in and say, ‘They all look alike,’ ” said Ron Kelsey, superintendent of farm crops, shaking his head. Not only is Kelsey overseeing the judging, but he’ll be hosting an exhibit of his own — hundreds of seed sacks he’s collected. The cloth bags are a remnant of an age where absolutely nothing went to waste. When the seeds were gone, the bags were turned into something else, from dish towels to clothes to children’s dolls.
That blend of nostalgic and new continues in exhibits throughout the fair this year.
The lumberjack logrolling contest will be sharing its pool with the fair’s new diving dog competition. University of Minnesota researchers have taken over the old Spamville exhibit to invite the crowds to volunteer as human test subjects for a broad range of research projects — from social science projects to nutrition studies.
Even 4-H is coming up with new ways to exhibit at the State Fair this year.
In a home in St. Paul, a group of 9- and 8-year-olds crouched around a contraption that had completely taken over the family’s dining room. It was the winning entry in the Ramsey County Fair’s 4-H Engineering Design Challenge competition — a fantastically noisy, twisty Rube Goldberg machine, designed to carry out a straightforward task in the most complex possible way.
The team from Chelsea Heights Elementary, who call themselves the Awesome Mustaches, created a 17-stage, multitiered device of ramps and wind chimes, marbles, water, a toy truck, a pulley, a hockey stick and a precarious pyramid of cups — all to zip the zipper on a mannequin the kids named “Bob.”
“It’s something really complicated and hard to make, to do something really simple,” explained Ben Vessel, who built the machine with his Chelsea Heights Elementary classmates Winter Russo, Olivia Miller and Mahlate Belete, with the assistance of 7-year-old Merrik Russo.
After several test runs, Bob was zipped securely into his jacket and the team was ready for the best part of a 4-H competition.
“We get to go to the State Fair!” said Winter Russo.
Jennifer Brooks • 612-673-4008