Laura Brock decided it was an idea worth stealing when she was planning a vacation to Montana.
Central Montana has a Montana Bale Trail for decorated hay bales, begun in 1990 and running a 21-mile loop. Montana’s bale trail website claimed visitors from California, Arizona and New York. Montana’s 2017 offerings include the Budweiser ClydesBALE and One Cute PupHAY.
Brock, city clerk/treasurer of Elkton, the county seat of Todd County, population 12,531, wanted to promote day-trip traffic to her county. For the unfamiliar, Todd County is located west of Bowling Green, between Russellville and Hopkinsville.
The first year, 15 organizations and individuals participated “and a lot of those we had to recruit,” Brock said.
But the Todd County hay enthusiasts did not bail out of the Bale Trail. They returned with a hay fudge cake, a hay ewe, Jack in the hay, “Hay Jude” fronted by Beatles figures, “Hay”braham Lincoln, Hay-Liens, Mr. Skel-Hay-Ton and the double threat of PokeHayMon and PickHayChu.
This year, 37 hay-based exhibits are available on the Bale Trail.
The trail began Sept. 18, and on that day “I had somebody from Alabama in city hall wanting a map for the bale trail,” Brock said.
Darlene Groves, a gift shop owner, said that she and her sister, Wanda Johnston, collaborate on their work. The first year of the Todd County Bale Trail, they worked together for a reproduction of the painting “American Gothic,” by Grant Wood, in which a farmer with a pitchfork stands next to his non-emoting wife: “It was huge,” said Groves, a former art teacher, and award-winning.
They also did a hay bale trio of snowmen that also won an award.
This year the two collaborated on a Cinderella carriage, with lights, paint applied by spray gun and a wooden flower pot as a stem. It’s called “Bale of the Ball” and is on display at Clifty Park.
“Everyone comes up and says how much their children love this carriage,” Groves said. “Every day, I see people up there getting their picture made with it. It’s a rewarding thing.”
The Todd County Community Alliance, of which Brock is a member, wants the displays to show different activities in the county, and some neighborhoods have seized the bale and run with it: Trenton, population 385, boasts 13 displays. That includes Piston Cup Filling StHAYtion and HAY T-Rex.
That’s pretty good for a town that has a restaurant called the Filling Station, Shivers’ quilt shop Golden Threads, a knitting/crochet shop, hair salon, post office, clinic and bank in around two blocks.
One difficulty in working with hay: Mosquitoes love it, too, Shivers said.
“Since we are small, we are looking for something that brings people in, always looking for something that makes it fun,” said Trenton resident Denise Shivers. “When I see kids running from one display to the next, that is worth it because the kids really do enjoy that.”
Tiffany Davenport participates with the inspiration of her two daughters, ages 6 and 4 (the Davenports also have a 10-month-old son). This year’s creation is Poppy, the pink-and-turquoise character from the movie “Trolls.” In the movie, Poppy is voiced by actress Anna Kendrick.
Davenport used ribbon, silk and four bolts of tulle to make Poppy’s hair.
“We do go around and see every one of them that is in the county,” Davenport said of the bale art.