The next 'grate' invention?
By Mike Longaecker
It can take years to get a booth at the Minnesota State Fair's Heritage Square.
However, a Woodbury man and his brothers developed a product that helped get them there on their first try.
Jason Thompson and family will spend the next two weeks trying to convince State Fair-goers why they should buy what he and his brothers think is the next big thing in barbecuing: the "Great Scrape," a grill scraper made of solid oak.
"We were fortunate enough to get in (to the fair)," said Thompson, a Woodbury resident.
Fair officials said the process is highly selective.
"The process is very competitive as we have a limited number of licensing opportunities available," said Pam Simon, concession and exhibit manager for the fair.
A full-time member of the Minnesota Air National Guard who specializes in aircraft maintenance, Thompson said the Great Scrape has allowed him to moonlight as an entrepreneur, something he said "I've always wanted to be."
He says the scraper offers the grilling crowd something different: a long-lasting, all-American device that won't leave any harmful debris on grill Thompson said.
The idea was hatched a few years back when one of his brothers bought a new grill that came with instructions forbidding the use of metal devices on its porcelain grate surface.
So he fashioned a wood scraper out of what Thompson described as just "a rough piece of oak." A few years later, Thompson encouraged his two brothers to refine the scraper and market it.
After three years that included applying for a patent, product refinement and market testing, the brothers are prepared to take the Great Scrape to Minnesota's biggest captive audience. About 1.8 million visitors pass through the fair's gates each year, according to fair organizers.
"It's quite a process," Thompson said.
During the fair, he and supporters of the venture - including brothers Josh Thompson, of St. Paul, and Nate Thompson, of North St. Paul - will be demonstrating the scraper. There are three versions of the scraper, which range in price from $14.95 to $24.95.
Heritage Square, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is located on Dan Patch Avenue across from the Midway.