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RF: Butter or bust | Pamdemonium
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RF: Butter or bust

September 5, 2010

At this time of the year, Random Fact’s thoughts turn to the Minnesota State Fair with apologies to all the Minnesota peeps because to them this week’s entry is not random at all.

But the butter busts beckon.

Each year, one devoted artist spends six to eight hours a day for 12 days carving the busts (not those, look north) of the finalists for “Princess Kay of the Milky Way” out of 90-pound solid blocks of Grade A salted butter.

In a rotating, glass-walled, walk-in cooler, Linda Christensen sculpts the likeness of one dairy queen each day. She’s been doing this for 40 years. The dozen finalists are picked from 100 or so county lasses in the contest sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Association. Would-be butter babes must have a high school education, be under the age of 24 and involved in dairy product production. Judging criteria include “communication skills, personality, general knowledge of the dairy industry and its products, and their commitment to dairy promotion.”

This Minnesota State Fair tradition began in 1965 but the craft of butter sculpting in the United States dates to at least 1876 for the centennial exposition in Philadelphia. Pamela Simpson, described as “a butter sculpture expert and art history professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.,” told a journalist from the Des Moines Register in 2009 that in the early years of the 20th Century, commercial creameries sponsored butter sculpting contests as a way to fight back against the interloper – margarine.

Minnesota is not alone in its buttery love. The Iowa, Ohio and Illinois state fairs all display a butter cow. At the Iowa State Fair this year, butter sculptures of characters from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham joined the butter bovine. In 2008, Harry Potter got the treatment.

But most of these sculptures are built up from frames of wood and wire. In Minnesota, Christensen starts with solid butter. And Princess Kay still outranks a cow.

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{ 1 comment }

kathy ekberg September 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Hi Pam! Loved the story! My Auntie Patsy was “Princess Kay of the Milkie Way” many many years ago! I used to gaze at her beautiful picture at my Grandma’s house and wished I could be that beautiful princess in her tiara!

Thanks for reminding me of that lovely memory!

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