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Clay County Fair entries are a family project

September 5, 2019
By Karen Schwaller - Farm News staff writer ( , Farm News


MILFORD - When the Clay County Fair put out a call for entries in what was then known as the Farm Gadget Show competition last year, Shane Swenson decided to create an entry - a scraper blade made from old caterpillar tracks.

Article Photos

-Farm News photo by Karen Schwaller

THE SWENSON FAMILY, from Milford, all participated in the Clay County Fair’s Town and Country Innovation Show last year. Shown above, from left to right, are Scott Swenson, Caden Swenson, Chelsea Swenson, Shane Swenson and Brianna Swenson.

And when his elementary-aged niece and nephew - Brianna and Caden Swenson - saw he was entering, they decided to get in on some of the possible cash winnings and began thinking about what to make as well.

Brianna Swenson constructed a yard drag made from old combine feeder house chain, and Caden Swenson made both a chicken feeder and chicken waterer out of five-gallon buckets and rubber feed pans.

The three each won $100 for their time and ingenuity, taking first place in each of their divisions; youth large exhibits and youth small exhibits during the 2018 Clay County Fair.

This past summer, when the Clay County Fair called for entries in the re-named Town and Country Innovation Show, Shane Swenson's brother and wife, Scott and Chelsea Swenson, decided they would also enter.

It became a family affair.

"The kids had fun doing it last year," said Chelsea Swenson, mother of Brianna and Caden Swenson. "This year we just made it part of our plan that we would all take something."

Rules for the Town and Country Innovation Show call for creating something new, or improving on an existing item, using purchased items or whatever is lying around the farm or garage.

The original competition began with the underlying knowledge that farmers often make what they need out of things lying around the shop. The show has now been expanded to include things that anyone can use - in town or in the country.

"The kids and I made several trips around the farm looking for things we could use," said Chelsea Swenson. "Sometimes I would say, 'Can we use this?' and the guys would say, 'No, we're still using that.'"

Brianna Swenson, said her first year she had some help from her dad in figuring out what she could make. But, last year, she came up with her own idea; a bolt bin made from two pallets attached at the top to make an open-ladder kind of base, with bins made of old grain leg buckets attached to the pallets. Her idea was to make a small one, but her dad and uncle encouraged her to make a bigger one.

"It got rid of more buckets," her uncle Shane Swenson said with a laugh.

Brianna Swenson said there were three different kinds of grain leg buckets to choose from, and she decided to use the ones she did because they were divided, and could sort more things.

Her first place finish, worth $100, happened because the judges thought her project was very useful.

"It was fun because I got to run the power drill and screw the buckets into the pallet," she said.

The project her brother, Caden Swenson, did last year was a mouse/rat trap made from a five-gallon bucket, a piece of lathe, a pop bottle and a clothes hanger.

The idea behind it is that a mouse/rat would scale the lathe, reach for peanut butter smeared on the pop bottle (which rotated on a clothes hanger over water in the bucket), roll off of the rotating pop bottle and fall into the water.

"Mom and Dad found the idea for me on the computer," said Swenson. "I helped look for the bucket and all the things I needed. I used the drill, too."

His efforts won him second place in the Youth Small Project division, and a $50 prize.

The Swenson children are no strangers to fair projects. They have entered at the Clay County Fair many times before for various areas - baking, vegetable production, scarecrows.

All winnings have been placed in a special 4-H account at the bank over the years, to be used when they were old enough to join 4-H and need to purchase livestock for their projects.

"Brianna will be needing some of that money starting this year," said her mother.

Chelsea Swenson took second place in the Adult Small Project division, choosing to make a flower planter out of an old school desk she found on the farm. She scraped the rust off, painted it and replaced some wood on it and is using it as a decoration for her front step.

"I was going to make a garden organizer out of it and put dividers in it for (garden tools)," she said, "and as I got working on it I decided to (do that) instead."

Scott Swenson chose to make a work table for the shop out of a large cable spool. He placed particle board on the top of it for a smooth, hole-free work area, and put six caster wheels on the bottom to make it easy to move.

He said it only took him an hour or so to put together, and he took third place in the Adult Large Exhibit division, winning $25.

Shane Swenson swept up first place in the same division, pitting him against his brother. He made a pneumatic fuel transfer tank, which uses compressed air to move fuel.

"We had a 12-volt one last year here and it quit working - we needed a bigger one anyway," he said. "We thought we could make one instead of spending (a lot of money) on one."

Swenson did some online research about how to make one, then spent $125 on the heavy-duty LP 300-gallon tank, and another $100 on parts, putting it together over three or four days. He tried the tank out using water and setting the air pressure at eight psi. After he got the hose on and experimented a little, he saw that the tank would expel about 15 gallons per minute at 10 psi. He plans to experiment with the psi.

Swenson said he's happy with the project because it's simple and useful.

"The LP tank is heavy duty so it will hold the air pressure," he said. "Most people have an air compressor when they're combining (or working away from home) anyway, so you already have the air supply. After we get more used to it, we'll be able to fill it with air here and then take it to the field."

He won $100 for his first place finish.

In a related contest which was part of the Town and Country Innovation Show, Chelsea and Caden Swenson both entered the Bucket of Junk challenge. The challenge called for people to find enough "junk" to fill a five-gallon bucket, then make something out of it.

Caden Swenson made a welcome "flag" out of an old silverware tray that he thought looked like a flag. He filled it with various nuts, bolts, washers and tools, then spray-painted everything red, white and blue.

He walked away with first place in the youth division and $100.

Chelsea Swenson self-designed a decorative "funky chicken" out of many odd pieces she found out in the farm shop. They included rusted out muffin tins, a broken spade, discarded field cultivator sweeps, a spring from an old garage door, drag tine, bolts, drop tube spout from a feed system and things they can't even identify.

Chelsea Swenson pointed to part of her creation and said, "we don't know what these are-we think they're part of an old shelving system.' We guessed it qualified as junk."

Everyone in the Swenson family said they are looking forward to next year's innovation show at the fair.

"If they're having a show, we're going to bring something," said Shane Swenson.

2019 Clay County Fair Town and Country Innovation show

The Town and Country Innovation show will celebrate its fifth year of competition at the 2019 Clay County Fair.

The show's exhibits are judged on workmanship, usefulness, appearance, design and creativity. They also have one "Best Safety Award" and one "Most Creative Use of Resources Award."

The Clay County Fair runs from Sept. 7-15.



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