Rochelle family sculpts ‘Baby Yoda’ for Mt. Morris straw competition

‘A big portion of it is bonding’

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 8/16/21

Danica and Mark Rogers from Rochelle have once again entered the National Straw Sculpting competition in Mt. Morris this year.

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Rochelle family sculpts ‘Baby Yoda’ for Mt. Morris straw competition

‘A big portion of it is bonding’


ROCHELLE — Growing up in the Rogers household meant doing creative things. 

“For as long as we’ve raised our kids, Halloween was big and we’d go all out,” Mark Rogers said. “My daughter, Danica, has always had a knack for creativity. It’s a talent she’s honed.”

The Rochelle father and daughter duo have continued their creativity and showcase it in the community. Danica and Mark have entered the U.S. National Straw Sculpting Competition in Mt. Morris that runs from Aug. 13-29. 

The competition is in its sixth year of operation and was in Rochelle for its first year. It’s been in downtown Mt. Morris on the historic campus since. 

Mark and Danica started entering the competition in its first year in Rochelle after encouragement by local sculptor Fran Volz and have been a part of it ever since. 

Their first entry was a 1970s troll doll. Then Danica and her cousin made King Kong and the Headless Horseman. And then it was the Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshmallow man.

“I enjoy the art work,” Mark said. “And it’s time to spend with Danica. A big portion of it is bonding.”

This year’s entry by Danica and Mark is “The Child” from “The Mandalorian,'' a Star Wars show on Disney+. The character is widely known as “Baby Yoda.”

“We wanted to do something simple,” Danica said. “My niece is obsessed with him.”

Creating the sculpture is not so simple. Mark estimates there are about 80 hours in the project. 30 percent is making it stand and the other 70 percent is chicken wire and form before the straw. 

Danica and Mark have been working on the sculpture for three weeks. Danica works in schools, so she has more time in the summer. She’s spent full days working on “Baby Yoda” and Mark helps out after work. 

“Sometimes you complain when it’s going on, doing the work,” Mark said. “You have some animosity. When it’s done and people are looking, that’s when the fun starts and it feels good.”

Danica agreed. The best part for her is the finished product and when people get to see it. She has a degree in art from Monmouth College and has worked on other forms of sculpting such as snow. 

Mark said straw sculpting competitions are rare in the United States. He’d like to see it continue and keep growing. 

“Please come out and take a look,” Mark said. “Maybe they’ll feel artistic talent start to come out. Maybe we’ll keep building this thing up. It truly is fun.”