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What the Hay?

          See the photos in our What the Hay Gallery 

           Note: some of the photo pages have links to larger versions of the images. 

Dancing hay bales animate gif, What the hay, Judith Basin County, MontanaHeld the second Sunday in September, What the Hay is a central Montana hay art contest stretching over 21 miles in Judith Basin County. It features around 50 or more creative hay bale sculptures in fields between the towns of Hobson  and Windham.

Utica  is at the midpoint of What the Hay.  It is also the center for What the Hay activities which include a large barbeque on Saturday  and voting for favorite displays. Utica Fair Day, an arts and crafts festival, is held in conjunction with What the Hay.

The contest originated from a joke between two neighboring ranchers. When haying was over in 1989, one of the ranchers, Rod Mikkelson, stuck a pair of pants and boots stuffed with straw out of the side of a hay bale.  The following day, the bale was turned on it's end, with a "no diving" sign posted nearby, courtesy of Rod's neighbor Don Derks.

A local rancher and a business man from Lewistown, Sarah Stevenson and Dean Newton, liked the joke so much that they sketched out plans for an annual contest.  A year later, the first What the Hay sculpture contest was held with the help of the Utica Rod and Gun Club. There were 10 entries.

What the Hay, Farmer in the Bale, Montana, 2007Each sculpture in "What the Hay" has a title displayed near or on it.  The words hay, straw, and/or bale are in every title.  The hay sculptures use square bales, round bales, or both.

Organized by the Utica Rod and Gun Club, What the Hay is sponsored by local businesses and private individuals.  The sculptures stay up a week and are then used for feed.

What the Hay entries are in two categories: adult and children 12 years old and younger.  The only rule is that the sculpture be made of hay.  Anyone can enter the contest – hay and location can be provided for entrants not from the area. Although most entries are from local farmer's and ranchers, there have been entrants from other parts of the state as well as other places such as New York, California, and Arizona.

There is no charge for entry.  Cash prizes are awarded for mechanized entries, adults' and childrens' entries and a "People's Choice" award voted on by those who have viewed What the Hay.  In 2008, over 4,000 People's Choice ballots were submitted.  All children who submit entries get a t-shirt.

What the Hay is preceded on Saturday by the Montana Chokecherry Festival in Lewistown.

What The Hay covers 21 miles on Highway 239 and 541, between Hobson and Windham with Utica being the center. Turn off of Highway 87 between Great Falls and Lewistown.