Monday, September 07, 2009

MN State Fair Sonnet - Day 12


Doesn’t everyone want a blue ribbon? Even for the best food court.

1st Award Winning Food Court, MN State Fair

I’ve submitted art to the State fair’s art show almost every year I’ve been in this state and only a handful of times have I ever gotten in.

Best neon sign, MN State Fair

I’ve never received a blue ribbon but it is an honor to have your work hanging for the teeming millions to admire. I don't always agree with the judges.

Blue ribbon corn, MN State Fair

I didn't realize that the crop art winner this year was from Zambia. I have a hard enough time making the deadline and I live down the street from the fair.

Blue ribbon crop art, MN State Fair

From the Pioneer Press:
The story of how 22-year-old Obrien Shipeka's creation got here is almost as interesting as the picture itself: It involves U.S. government outreach, a portrait of President Barack Obama and a Web site dedicated to crop art.

"He's never been in Minnesota, never been in the United States. It's definitely the best piece of crop art in here," said Ron Kelsey, head of crop art contests at the Fair. "The fact that someone would send seed art from Africa and have it arrive in excellent condition, that is somewhat of a surprise."

Shipeka, contacted via e-mail, said the girl in the picture — titled "African Girl" — is his little sister. He spent a month working with millet seeds, roasting them in a hot pan to get the right colors.

He's one of the first to use the technique so extensively, Kelsey said.

"I have been working with seeds to create art for the past five years, since my high school days, with the help of my school art teachers," Shipeka said. "At the moment, I have no formal job, but I spend most of my time creating art through seeds."

The journey of "African Girl" started in Shipeka's hometown of Ndola, the second-largest city in Zambia. His art teacher and mentor there, Danny Chiyesu, read a U.S. Embassy newsletter about cultural outreach and programs.

He sent an e-mail to Sara Stealy, deputy public affairs officer, and attached a seed art portrait of President Barack Obama crafted by Shipeka.

"I was curious — and a little wary! — as I opened the attached photo," Stealy recalled in an e-mail to the Pioneer Press. "A seed mosaic of the president? But the quality completely blew me away, and I asked if I could see the mosaic in person."

Chiyesu journeyed to Lusaka, the capital city, with the picture.

"It was even more interesting in person, and I knew I had to have it!" Stealy said. As is custom in Zambia, Chiyesu asked her to make an offer for the work.

She talked with local contacts about a fair price and did some online research. That led her to, a site run by perennial crop art competitor and Pioneer Press employee David Steinlicht.

"It's the magic of the World Wide Web," Steinlicht said. "Everything's out there; everything's available 24 hours a day."

At the site, Stealy saw that the Fair has an annual competition for crop art.

She told Chiyesu on Aug. 1 about the contest, assuming he'd have Shipeka send something in next year.

But Chiyesu's brother, who works at a printing house run by Franciscan friars in the capital, was able to send out "African Girl" by carrier service. The work made the mid-August entry deadline.

Chiyesu checked the Minnesota State Fair Web site for results frequently, but Internet service in Zambia can be spotty, so he didn't find out about Shipeka's win until Monday. Judges gave it the highest score of all 150 entries this year, based on artistic merit, craftsmanship and compliance with the rules. Entries are displayed in the Agriculture-Horticulture building on the Fairgrounds.

"My reaction when I found out about the Fair results was a shock. I hardly could believe it," Shipeka said.

He won $40 for best out-of-state entry and will get a plaque for taking the best-in-show ribbon.

It is fun to get recognition for your work whether it be art, baked goods, animals, crops or what have you. I guess even having the most popular fair food or product would get you a blue ribbon of sorts. I award my own best of show to the newest fair product, the winner - Go Girl. Now I can pee standing up (I have yet to try it.)

There were two outstanding food items the Pot Roast Sundae...

Pot Roast Sundae, MN State Fair

...and the Deep Fried Norwegian Banana Split.

Deep Fried Norwegian Banana Split, MN State Fair

Banana Split photo courtesy of Twin Cities Metromix. Thank you for for photographing all the new state fair food.

The fair is winding down and everyone has to pack up. You get the chance to sell your blue ribbon item or just savior the recognition. Every year, they show a kid with the prize winning animal, they’re auctioning it off and the kid is both happy and sad. It is bittersweet, the end of the fair, saying goodbye to your prized thing that you worked so hard on, and the end of summer.

Horse and ribbons, MN State Fair

One last thing I love to do is to watch the final talent show at the Grand stand. They show the cream of the crop (ha) you see them perform and then they announce the winners. You get to watch this all inside the grandstand - usually you have to have a ticket to be inside. It is the best place to watch the fireworks.

Final talent show, MN State Fair

There’s the last fireworks show...

Fireworks, MN State Fair

...the grand finale and you then go home.

Grand finale fireworks, MN State Fair

One time, I was at the fair on the last day – the day started out hot and muggy – very summer like. Then it started raining and by the time I got home it was fall. I had to make a fire and eat soup because it had changed to fall in just a few hours. I can see that the weather will do that later in the week – the first cold and rainy days of the season are just ahead. Tomorrow- how to get through the rest of the unfair.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hmph. I would have definitely thought you would have to be from Minnesota in order to enter an art piece into the Minnesota State Fair. That just doesn't seem fair, even though it was an amazing piece of art.