Montana Bale Trail
"What The Hay"
Celebrating Our 29th Year
Without you we would not be!
September 9, 2018
2017 Montana Bale Trail
Photos courtesy of Montana Bale Trail
Montana Bale Trail:
2017 Entry Winners by Vote
1. Super Mario Bales
Nate Carr & Josh Burnham
2. One Cute PupHay
Hobson Class of 2024
3. Wile E. Coyot'hay
4. Hayd'n to Jordan/Mini Load for Fire
5. Ice'hay'ge, Wool-hay Mammoth
7. Monster Tiger Musk'hay
Carter Derks/Heath Drivdahl
8. So ShinHay
E. Olson & M. Deupree Families
9. Hot Tom'hay'to
10. Trolls Princess Popp'hay
History of "What the Hay"
"What the Hay!" began in 1989 as a joke between two neighbors. There were no rules or prizes. . . just a personal one-upsmanship between friends. It was done with such humor that another local decided to make a contest out of it. Rules and applications were designed and prize money sponsorship arranged. With permission from the local sheriff's office, a route for the displays was designated - from Windham, through Utica, to Hobson. Three judges were asked to preside. An official judges' car was donated and the contest was on. The awards ceremony was followed by a party and dance at the Oxen Yoke Inn.
Over the years several changes have evolved. The Utica Rod & Gun Club sponsors and organizes the event, held the first Sunday following Labor Day in September. This is in conjunction with the Utica Women's Club Utica Day Fair and the day after Lewistown's Chokecherry Festival.
"What the Hay" features creative hay bale sculptures. Past displays have included a mechanized, musical Jack-in-the-Bale, and a brightly colored Cook-Hay Monster. On Sunday morning you will find a steady stream of traffic starting as early as 9:00 a.m. and the judging begins at 10:00 a.m.
Beginning in 1990, the event has grown from a handful of entries to over 50 entries. Numerous television spots and press articles in out-of-state newspapers and magazines such as People and Sunset have covered this curious event. In 2002 over 5,000 Peoples Choice ballots were cast for the most popular entry. In celebration and recognition of agriculture and tourism joining hands in fun, the Montana Tourism awarded "What the Hay" the 2003 Event of the Year.
The hay bale sculptures are displayed in fields between Windham and Hobson (Highways 239 and 541), with Utica being the halfway point. Titles of the bales are mounted next to each entry. There are two categories: adults and children aged 12 and under. The only rules are it must be made out of hay. Any one from anywhere is welcome to enter the contest; hay and a location can be provided. Entries are free.
The panel of judges place the top ten bales, and the "People's Choice" ballots give the bale viewer a voice. Ballots are distributed on Sunday, with the winners announced at the Oxen Yoke that evening. Instead of only two bales, there are now 30 and up to 50 bales from year to year with entrants primarily being the local are farmers and ranchers, but have also come away from as far as California and New York.
Utica Day Fair and "What The Hay" is a fun community event the whole family will enjoy. You can spend the day viewing creative hay bale sculptures, purchase and admire creative items from vendors in our large state, eat delicious pie from the Utica Women's Club members, enjoy garage sales along the route, and also tour the towns of Windham, Utica, and Hobson. These three communities combined boast a wide array of dining, historical and social opportunities.