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Nicole Lowe welded flowers from old car hoods and created an 'all-seasons' clothing/photo display.

Garrett Paustian’s barn quilt was so good that his grandfather wants him to make one just like for his barn. He spent about sixty hours creating its multi-colored star design, using the favorite colors of his mom, Mary.

Kaylie Bahmann made a cage for her first rabbit, which will be named Ellie – a rabbit she now may have to wait until after the Iowa State Fair to obtain.

That’s because Garrett and Kaylie are among more than three dozen Benton County 4-H and/or FFA members whose projects will advance to the Iowa State Fair, which begins Aug. 7.

Several of the creators of projects which the judges selected during the Benton County Fair last week shared the inspiration behind their projects, offering some words about how they made their particular project – and why.

Nicole Lowe made a large set of flowers out of old car hoods, using welding skills her father has taught her. She and her two siblings, Kristen and Jacob, all had projects chosen for the fair. Nicole started welding at age 12, four years ago; a rose she welded last year went to the 2013 Iowa State Fair.

Nicole and her two siblings, Kristen (who was also the 2013 Benton County Fair Princess) and Jacob, all entered projects which judges chose for the State Fair.

For Kristen's photography project, Nicole used sparklers to trace the letters "U," "S," and "A" in the night sky, while Kristen used creative shutter speed settings to capture the letters in light.

Jacob Lowe advanced to the State Fair with his restoration of an antique garden tiller.

The Lowes were just one group of county siblings who will go to the State Fair with projects honored at last week’s Benton County Fair.

Macy Arbuckle always wanted to make a quilt, and spent much of the last year cutting blue jeans into 222 quilt squares. She added 222 more squares of camouflage material, and sewed a denim/camo quilt that will cover her bed – after it comes back from the State Fair.

Macy’s sister, Cali, entered some French Butter Cookies, and placed them in a display with tea cups.

“I got the recipe from the Internet,” Cali says.

Dysart-LaPorte FFA member Mitchell Hanson created a “Frame of Fame,” using an old window and replacing the glass with chicken wire, on which he hangs photos, ribbons and other memorabilia, including a shotgun shell from his FFA trap shooting team. Mitchell’s project was also chosen for the State Fair, with one irony: Just above the “Frame of Fame,” someone misspelled his last name.

Some 4-H and FFA members simply come up with an idea and finish it within a few days before the fair; others are thinking year-round about what projects they will enter when July rolls around.

2014 Benton Community graduate Neil Schadle of rural Watkins has been collecting skeleton keys for years. In his last year as a fair participant, he created a display case which holds 30 of his favorite keys – some of which are approximately a century old.

“I didn’t just create this display for the Fair; I have a genuine interest in keys, locks and they way they work together,” Neil wrote in his project book. “Through a series of school projects, papers (one more than 30 pages in length) and this project, I have learned quite a lot about keys.”

He also included a diagram that lists the various parts of each key.

“We go to many antique shops,” says Neil’s mom, Amy, adding that Neil has accompanied his parents to many of these shops, looking for specific keys or types of keys.

His favorite key, a large one used for opening some type of cabinet, cost him $6, although he had seen identical ones at other shops for as much as $30.

Neil is leaving for Iowa State next month, and will find a place in the Schadle house to hang his collection of keys. His mom hopes he chooses a place where everyone can see them every day.

Neil’s younger sister, Madelyn, entered a photo of hens and chickens, but don't look -- as this photographer did-- for a mother and some baby birds. In this case, hen and chickens refers to a succulent flower, grown in a pot in the Schadle home. Madelyn’s photo of the plant was among the State Fair-selected photographs.

Sarah Schminke of rural Shellsburg made an overnight bag that turned out larger than she expected.

“I wanted to make an overnight bag so I looked online for some ideas and then my former babysitter helped me sew it,” said Sarah. “After we got all the material we started cutting out the fabric and making sure they were all the right sizes and put them together. I put on the zipper and the handle; I then just put it all together.”

Sarah says she learned many skills from this project, including how to use a walking foot to hold the fabric together, how to sew on a zipper, and how to use jute webbing and batting.

“I plan on using my bag when I’m spending the weekend away from home,” says Sarah. “I’m happy with how the bag turned out, although it turned out bigger than I thought.”

Jenna Lane of Vinton has grown up watching her dad, Tom, create a variety of woodworking projects. This year, she decided to make one of her own, and learn about Dad’s tools along the way. She made a chair from an electrical cable spool.

“I made my own design and didn't have a set list of instructions,” says Jenna. “It took about three weeks to complete and I learned how to use a lot of different tools and I'm very happy with how it turned out.”

Last year, Sarah Kreutner's State Fair-chosen project was a large oak book shelf. This year, Sarah made a much smaller project that represents years of effort. Her scrapbook contains some of her favorite drawings and photographs; after the State Fair, it will find its spot on the book shelf, although Sarah plans to keep adding more pages. A few years ago, Sarah earned State Fair recognition with a wooden show box the Kreutner family uses to contain its supplies for fair cattle shows. Sarah restored and repainted the box, which both her grandfather and father had used during their days of showing cows at county fairs.

Donny and Tommy Sass of rural Shellsburg like to watch "American Pickers" with their father, Ed. In one episode they saw an entire wall covered with tools.

"We didn't think their mom would go for that," said Ed. So, he and the boys set out for the next-best project: A small barn door covered with wrenches and gears, carefully arranged. That project will join the others next month at the Iowa State Fair.

Emma Arnold of rural Vinton entered one of the many photographs chosen to represent Benton County at the State Fair; she entered several photographs but the judges' favorite was the one using a unique view of the inside of a paper towel tube.

“Emma studied other photographers and learned how they used lightness and darkness in their photos,” says mom Sara. “She literally walked into the kitchen grabbed a paper towel tube and snapped four photos. This is what she brought back to me and we all said "Wow."

Emma has already decided what to do with the other photos she entered in the fair: Her grandpa gets the photo of great-grandpa's truck. Great-Grandma Yedlik gets the series of great-grandpa's truck. And Madeline will get the photo of herself. She takes time with her photos, even gets down on her hands and knees, back, get the photo. She really enjoys taking photos of nature.

She still needs to decide, however, where the other photo goes. But she doesn’t need to decide now; her project will be on display at the State Fair from Aug. 7-17.

And even those local youth whose works were not chosen for the State Fair have gained the attention of admirers.

Clayton Sparks made an Iowa-shaped wall hanging covered with old license plates, with a skull of a bull in the center. Several adults who saw that item, which received a blue ribbon, asked about whether or not Sparks would be available for hire to make one for them.

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