From Cyclone City in Ames to Herky on Parade in Iowa City, communities across Iowa have embraced the craze of quirky public art. Lucas County is no exception: Now through October 31st travelers are invited to tour the area and enjoy 31 different pieces of art, each crafted from hay bales. You heard me right: hay bales. You know, the stuff cows eat.
I had the chance to see the art for myself on a recent visit and learned how the super-dedicated, all-volunteer group Tourism Lucas County (TLC) has grown this event over three years from 17 art pieces to 31 this year.
One of four judges asked to select the best art of the bunch, I took my role seriously. I was prepared for a thorough debriefing of the initiative, an official ballot and strict instructions on the eligibility of each piece.
Instead, this is the conversation that ensued.
Me: What are the rules for participation?
TLC: No rules. Only a guidelines committee that says the art must be located in Lucas County and must be made mostly of hay.
Me: What happens to the hay after the event?
TLC: Cows eat it.
Me: Who can enter Hay Bale Art?
Me: What do the winning entrants receive?
TLC: Bragging rights.
So there you have it: fun and informality at its best. This is Iowa!
Over the next couple of hours, a Tourism Lucas County volunteer drove me and fellow judge, Lucas County Fair Queen Taylor Pennington, around the county, showing us each entry and telling us casually about the groups of kids, families or businesses who concocted it. Some were simple, using only a few small square bales. Others were elaborate, like “Hayhenge,” that used a combo of more than 40 round and square bales to replicate Stonehenge in England. After much careful consideration, I cast my vote for The Very Hungry Caterpillar piece (pictured above), proudly displayed in the front yard of its creators, a family with three young sons.
Sure, you can travel to visit Michelangelo’s David or the Mona Lisa. But think instead about a trek to Lucas County where creative and fun-loving Iowans are ready to welcome you. The time is right to travel Iowa. After all, you’ve gotta make hay while the sun still shines.