Straw Fest a success

Winners in straw sculpting competition announced

MT. MORRIS — With a heat index around 100 degrees, the last thing many people wanted to do last weekend was hang around in the sun.

Luckily for the sixth annual U.S. National Straw Sculpting Competition, it had an edge.

“The fortunate thing for us, and the real advantage we have over other venues, is we’re in the shade,” organizer Jeff Bold said.

The U.S. National Straw Sculpting Competition is a 17-day event which ran Aug. 13-29. It culminated in Straw Fest, a three-day fête with music, food vendors, blacksmith demonstrations, line dancing, straw bale races and more.

On Aug. 28, the day the winning sculptures were announced, attendance did drop off from mid-morning to the afternoon because of the heat, but by evening when Fortunate Sons — a Credence Clearwater Revival tribute band — started playing, the crowd numbered around 600, Bold said.

“It ended up being a great day,” he said. “It was a little scary in the middle, knowing we had good money out for the band and we’d lost the crowd because of the heat. But it ended up being a great weekend.”

Apart from attendance, the heat also impacted the straw bale races.

Normally, participants in the race would run a set of preliminaries and then be placed in a bracket, Bold said.

“With the heat and the issue we had with the straw, we just took the top time,” he said.

Five straw sculptures were entered in this year’s competition. They must be a minimum of 6.5 feet in height, length or width and at least 90% straw on the surface, according to competition rules.

“This takes anywhere from several weeks to several months [to construct], depending on the piece,” Bold said.

First place for Peoples Choice was won by to “The Child,” a sculpture of Star Wars’ baby Yoda, by Danica and Mark Rogers, a father and daughter team from Rochelle. The entry also won second place for Artists’ Choice.

“Mr. Peanut,” by Doreen White and friends, of Mt. Morris, took second place for Peoples Choice and first place for Artists’ Choice.

Third place for Peoples Choice went to “Show Off,” by Steve Lentz, of Montello, Wisconsin.

Lentz and the other two entries — “Lighthouse,” by Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, of Mt. Morris, and “Shark Man,” by Chris and Cecilia Mann, of Rockford — all tied for third in the Artists’ Choice awards.