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Two Harbors native wins purple ribbon at State Fair

Two Harbors native Alexis Hanson won a purple ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for building a wooden king-size bed for a Four-H woodworking project. (Photo courtesy of Viola Hanson)1 / 2
Alexis Hanson works to complete the king size bed in her carpentry class at Two Harbors High School. Hanson submitted the frame to the Minnesota State Fair. (News-Chronicle file photo by Jamey Malcomb)2 / 2

A few weeks ago, Two Harbors native Alexis Hanson was wandering through the 4-H building at the Lake County Fairgrounds wondering which of her many projects she would take to the Minnesota State Fair.

She had a number of purple ribbon projects to choose from to take to the state fair, but she could only take one. Hanson had to choose from artwork, photography, gardening projects and even a variety of pies and for the last seven years, she had sent a project to St. Paul for judging and she always came back with a blue or red ribbon. This year, though, was her final year to send a project to the fair with 4-H and she wanted to send something that could bring a coveted purple ribbon and, at the end of the day there was only one choice. Hanson spent most of the past year in both 4-H and in her wood shop class at Two Harbors High School building a wooden king-size bed, complete with reading lights, wired and ready for use.

The bed was so big the local 4-H couldn't take it down so Hanson's father and a friend transported the bed to St. Paul and set it up for judging. Her choice was rewarded and Hanson was awarded her first purple ribbon for her ambitious project after an intense and thorough judging process.

"I was really nervous because I thought this was my one shot to get a purple ribbon," she said.

"There are not a lot of girls that compete in the wood shop category down at the state fair, so it made me stick out a little bit. It was an 'Oh my gosh, she did that all by herself' kind of thing."

Hanson's bed was selected as the purple ribbon winner after a process called "conference judging" where Hanson and other county-level purple ribbon winners met with an adult expert in wood shop. Not only did the judge take a look at the process Hanson followed, but he was also able to talk with her about the project and assess her understanding of the skills and scope of the project.

"In this case they could see whether the cutting, sanding, or stain went really well, but it gives her the chance to explain how she did things, and why she did things," Lake County 4-H coordinator Tracey Anderson said. "In a lot of other places they just look and give ribbons based on what they see. 4-H is special because it gives the youth a chance to hone their interview skills, explain what they did and why it went well, or even why it didn't."

Anderson said Hanson, who has been involved with 4-H for 13 years, demonstrated more than just woodworking skills in the bed project, she also demonstrated many of the core tenets of 4-H like leadership and commitment to an ambitious project.

"As far as the bed goes, I think all of the other things, the leadership, how to start things and complete it, that's really where the 4-H comes in. We use those project areas to develop other skills and work through those skills that you've learned," Anderson said. "I know she worked on that a lot in school, which is great as it is all about being lifelong skills and it being able to cross over into other parts of your life."

Hanson, who recently started school at Lake Superior College in Duluth, said she originally decided to build the bed as something she would use when she left home for college.

"When I was a junior, I really thought it would be a really cool thing to make a bed," Hanson said. "I'm moving out, college is coming, I'm going to make a bed and then I don't have to buy one. I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to do something harder because I've been doing shop projects for a really long time, but I wanted to do something that would be really tedious and take a long time."

Since she made a king-size bed, it was too big for a dorm room and after deciding to live at home to start school, she's decided to sell her purple ribbon winning project, but she plans to build a smaller bed that she could take to school with her when the time comes.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Lake Superior School District board of education and high school sports in Lake County. 

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