LOS ANGELES - A Fargo family didn't win the national Halloween costume contest that recently brought them here, but their kids earned Martha Stewart's approval.

The Gordons, parents Wendy and Robert, 8-year-old Micah and 5-year-old Julia, submitted two photos to an online call for contestants for the Hub Network's first-ever costume contest.

They were selected as the North Dakota semi-finalists on the strength of their family costume - a nod to that iconic Fargo image, the woodchipper.

The family was flown out to L.A. last weekend, and filmed the costume competition on a soundstage in front of celebrity judges Stewart, actor Hal Sparks and actress and singer Coco Jones as they vied for the top prize of $25,000 and a chance for a walk-on role on "R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: The Series."

The competition, hosted by "Saturday Night Live" cast member Keenan Thompson, will air on the Hub Network from 6 to 8 p.m. Central time this Saturday. The station can be found on Channel 342 on Cable One, Channel 294 on DirecTV and Channel 179 on Dish Network.

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The family used a cardboard box, black markers, the case from a 12-pack of soda and yellow paper to put together an eye-catching woodchipper costume worn by Micah, while little sister Julia and his parents wore their warmest winter gear to complete the look.

But not everyone understood the reference, Wendy Gordon said.

"I don't get the feeling that Martha Stewart got it," she said, laughing. "And I don't know about Coco Jones."

Still, Stewart told the kids that she thought they were cute. At least one of the judges seemed to get the joke, Gordon said - Sparks told the family that the costume "brought back nightmares," but he thought it was hilarious.

She said many of the behind-the-scenes production workers said they liked the woodchipper, especially with Micah's head barely sticking out of the top. In keeping with the spirit of the costume, Micah was told to move his head around like he was actually in one of the machines - but not to be too realistic, Gordon said.

"We kept it more jokey than gruesome because it is a children's network," she said.

The family made a fake ax for Julia to hold onto, and she, too, was given instructions to fit the scene - look mean.

"We have no idea what she looked like in reality, and we won't know until it airs," Gordon said. "My guess is that she ended up looking cute."

Their hard work was appreciated by many during the filming. But the costume didn't have what it took to win the "Howlarious" category - that honor went to the "really beautiful" nacho cheese monster costume made by another contestant, she said.

The Gordons also were beat out for the overall top prize, but that winner won't be revealed until the contest is aired on Saturday.

Overall, Gordon said it was a "surreal" experience that gave the family an unexpected whirlwind vacation in L.A. They had time over the weekend to see the former Space Shuttle Endeavour in the California Science Center.

They returned home empty-handed, other than the participation badges they were given and the few souvenirs they bought.

Still, they did pretty well considering it was the first time the Gordons had ever tried to make Halloween costumes for the kids, she said.

"Our very first Halloween costume got judged by Martha Stewart," Gordon said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587