The wacky, wonderful Brillo pad creations of the Ohio State Fair

The wacky, wonderful Brillo pad creations of the Ohio State Fair

Nancy Radke learned a valuable lesson during last year's Ohio State Fair. Her entry in the annual Brillo pad art competition-a 1950s-style bobby soxer-lost to an Abe Lincoln outfit covered entirely in the soapy steel wool. "I should have used more Brillo!" declares an exasperated Radke, who vows not to make the same mistake with her entry this year, a mounted wooly mammoth head.

For the Brillo battle-one of three Wild and Wacky art contests held during the State Fair, which runs July 27–Aug. 7-competition can be, well, stiff. Michael Moscato of the Far West Side wouldn't reveal his ideas for this year's contest, fearing a copycat. Last year he won first place in one of the four categories-and $100–with his Statue of Liberty sculpture, framing it with an old flowerpot, plastic fencing and wood scraps and then shaping and gluing Brillo pads all over it. "You get a really strong jawbone out of Brillo,'' says Moscato, who made a duct-tape Statue of Liberty a few years ago for the fair's Duct Tape competition, too.

Deborah Hochbein, the fair's director of special events, came up with the Brillo idea. Armaly Brands-which manufactures Brillo pads in London, Ohio-was "a little bit surprised, but eager and willing to see what we could do with it," Hochbein says. Company officials were so pleased they took one of the creations-a Brillo-dillo-back to their offices.

Moscato, 58, says Brillo pads are a good artistic medium. "Every so often you get a poke in your fingertips, but you get enough soap on your hands from the Brillo pads that you have no problems washing up."

Radke, 54, of Gahanna, has competed in state fair competitions for nearly two decades, beginning with cooking and branching out to wacky. Anything new and unusual, like the Brillo contest five years ago, immediately draws her interest. "One year I put a bunch of Brillo pads in a jar and called it Brill pickles," she says with a giggle. Another year she photographed her husband "eating" a bowl full of Brillo pads for the photography category. "Kind of like shredded wheat, you know?" she says.