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Spreading the word: Cottonwood County 4-Her creates Nashville inspired project

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Tristyn Maras created this portable set of wings for this week's Cottonwood County Fair. (Alyssa Sobotka/The Globe)

WINDOM — One Cottonwood County 4-H’er is hoping a set of wings will help promote the program that she loves.

Inspired by a similar concept in Nashville, Tenn., Tristyn Maras entered a portable set of butterfly wings in this year’s fair in hopes people will pose between the wings, snap a photo and share it online.

“I knew that I wanted to get other people in Cottonwood County in 4-H and spread the word,” said the Windom eighth-grader.

Painted on two pieces of 8-foot-by-4-foot pieces of plywood connected by hinges, the set of wings leaves room for people to stand in between each wing.

Inside the wings, Maras Mod-Podged cutouts of animals one would expect to see at the fair. She was also purposeful to include flower arrangements and promotional messages of the county’s 4-H program.

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“Everyone thinks 4-H is just about the animals,” she said. “(On the wings) there’s a little booklet, arts and crafts and sayings. I thought it was really important to incorporate that, too.”

While she wanted to help promote the 4-H program, she wasn’t sure how until her recent trip to Nashville, where she stood between a set of wings painted on a building and snapped a photo. It was a unique marketing strategy that she wanted to emulate back home.

Having arrived back to Windom in early August, she got straight to work. For five days, Maras — with help from her mom, Cheri — worked long hours to get the project ready in time for the fair.

“We stayed up until midnight working on 4-H projects,” Maras said. “When we started this project, I didn’t think we’d get it done. It was a lot of work.”

The project helped Maras work on her patience, which she admitted is lacking. However, that was necessary as the two meticulously painted the white outline of the butterfly wing on the black background.

Another challenge Maras faced was determining the width and height of the wings. She wanted to ensure enough space for people to fit between the wings, and wanted a height that was as conducive to younger, shorter children as it was to older and taller kids.

But Maras worked through the challenges, and it paid off. She won grand champion in her age group and reserve champion for the project entered into the self-determined category.

While a reserve championship doesn’t earn her a trip to the Minnesota State Fair, she's being awarded one of two state fair bids provided by the Cottonwood County 4-H program coordinator.

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Maras doesn’t plan on retiring the project after the fair. She envisions taking it to community events throughout the county over the years to accomplish what the wings were made to do.

Check out Maras’ wings through Saturday at the Cottonwood County Fairgrounds in Windom.

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Tristyn Maras works on her set of wings that promotes Cottonwood County 4-H and its activities. (Alyssa Sobotka/The Globe)

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