Alongside entries in this year's typically impressive crop-art exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair — a bee hovering over a hive, portraits of Yoda and Johnny Carson, a full-moon face with a corn cob stuck in its eye — Daniel Seddiqui's two small creations would never draw much attention.

But, hey, it was his first time.

Standing at a table in the fairgrounds' Agriculture Horticulture Building on a rainy opening night, Seddiqui applied glue to a simple outlined shape on paper, sprinkled seeds over it and shook off the excess to form an image that was eventually recognizable as a cow.

"A Holstein," noted Ron Kelsey, a retired agriculture teacher of Lamberton, Minn., who was showing Seddiqui the basics of this classic State Fair art form (Minnesota crops only — no weeds — Kelsey said).

"I think I did pretty decently in half an hour," Seddiqui said. Just before crafting the cow, he created a simple seed-art corn dog, striping it corn-kernel mustard.

It was the latest stop on Seddiqui's trips to major U.S. cities gathering information for a travel book, sponsored by each city's visitors' bureau. In an accompanying project called "A Piece of Your City," he crafts quirky objects representative of local culture everywhere he goes. While in Minnesota, he also carved a butter knife at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis and fashioned a Lego sculpture at the Mall of America.

He sees the project as one way to help mend the country during these divisive times by reminding Americans of the strengths they share.

"We've got to get behind [the idea] that we can have something in common again … pride in what we've been able to accomplish," he said.

Seddiqui, 39, lives in Bend, Ore., has a 5-month-old daughter and a full-time day job working in employee relations for an online college. But his side gig is traveling around the country, engaging in locally significant activities at each stop. He calls it "living the map."

The native Californian, who also lived in Minnesota from 2017 to 2020 and met his wife here, launched his series of epic cross-country adventures more than a decade ago. After graduating in 2005 from the University of Southern California with an economics degree, he couldn't find a job. So Seddiqui came up with a wild idea: work for one week in each of the states.

He sent out thousands of e-mails and made thousands of calls, receiving rejections from almost everybody but finally managing to line up short-time jobs in each state, working in industries associated with their locations. He mined coal in Virginia, married couples in Nevada and worked at a medical-device manufacturer in Minnesota.

The project got a lot of press coverage and led to a bestsell ing 2011 book, "50 Jobs in 50 States: One Man's Journey of Discovery Across America."

In 2018, he embarked on the American Bucket List Challenge, in which he tried a cultural activity in every state, singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Utah, judging the World Series of Barbecue in Missouri, hula dancing in Hawaii.

Minnesota's activity was water skiing in Brainerd. Wearing a wet suit because it was late September, he managed to get up on his water skis once, but not the second time. But that's OK. He likes opportunities to embrace failure.

"I'm somebody who wants to challenge myself," he said.

This is his third round of cross-country exploits, visiting more than 60 cities and having experiences quintessential to each. His book, as he explains on his website, will "showcase the best neighborhoods, views, foods, activities, events, parks, museums, historic sites, etc., that are absolute musts for any visitor to experience."

In Minneapolis, for example, that includes biking around the Chain of Lakes, visiting George Floyd Square and, of course, roaming theskyways. "It's a very simple concept but obviously very hard to execute," he said. "All these have to be learned on the fly."

He's been collecting his crafted objects in his office, where he can see them and remember his experiences in the cities where he made them. Only one problem.

"I'm going to have to get a bigger office," he said. "I was even teasing my wife that I was going to put things in our daughter's room. She said that's off limits."

Katy Read • 612-673-4583