© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The wait is over. Here's the Ohio State Fair butter cow display theme

A team of technical sculptors spent over 600 hours creating this year’s butter sculptures out of more than 2,500 pounds of butter, making it the biggest display ever at the Ohio State Fair.
Courtesy
/
American Dairy Association Mideast
A team of technical sculptors spent over 600 hours creating this year’s butter sculptures out of more than 2,500 pounds of butter, making it the biggest display ever at the Ohio State Fair.

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the famous(ly weird?) Ohio State Fair butter cow display is back — and the cows are bringing their farmyard friends.

Each year's theme is a closely guarded secret. Past sculptures have included astronauts, athletes, sports teams, state symbols, choirs, the Columbus bicentennial and more.

This year's just-unveiled theme honors the fair's "rich agricultural heritage," according to the American Dairy Association Mideast, which creates the annual display.

"This year, in addition to the cow and calf, who are actually being shown by kids, you'll see three other animals in the cooler with the cow and calf — for the first time ever: farm animals. We have a pig, a lamb and a chicken, and all of those animals are being shown by kids. So 10 sculptures total: five kids, five animals," says Jenny Crabtree, senior vice president of communications.

For the first time ever, the traditional butter cow and calf are joined by other farm animals inside the butter cooler. This year’s butter display celebrates the agricultural roots of the fair, depicting young exhibitors showing their animals.
Courtesy
/
American Dairy Association Mideast
For the first time ever, the traditional butter cow and calf are joined by other farm animals inside the butter cooler. This year’s butter display celebrates the agricultural roots of the fair, depicting young exhibitors showing their animals.

Crabtree notes this is the biggest butter cow display the association has ever done at the state fair. It tops the 2008 exhibit which memorialized Ohio's presidents.

"It's so fun. I love it," she exclaims.

How much butter does it take to sculpt five children and five farm animals? The display uses 2,530 pounds of butter.

"It took a team of six sculptors about 500 hours of actual sculpting," says Crabtree. "And they do that inside the display case there at the fairgrounds."

Technical sculptor Karen Tharp sculpts the chin of one of the butter sculptures inside the 46-degree cooler.
Courtesy
/
American Dairy Association Mideast
Technical sculptor Karen Tharp sculpts the chin of one of the butter sculptures inside the 46-degree cooler.

The butter sculptures are housed in a refrigerated display case set at 46 degrees. The association expects half a million visitors will check out the dairy display, making it what they say is the most popular exhibit at the fair each year.

The butter cow dates back to 1903.

Sculptors use expired butter to make their creations. They start with wooden and steel frames, then slice 55-pound blocks into manageable loaves and layer over the frames. From there, they begin molding and sculpting the butter, with fine details added last.

This year’s butter display recognizes the hard work of the kids who show their animals each year at the Ohio State Fair. It’s the first time that the traditional butter cow and calf are joined by other farm animals inside the butter cooler.
Courtesy
/
American Dairy Association Mideast
This year’s butter display recognizes the hard work of the kids who show their animals each year at the Ohio State Fair. It’s the first time that the traditional butter cow and calf are joined by other farm animals inside the butter cooler.

What happens to the more than 2,000 pounds of butter once the fair is over?

The butter is scraped into 55 gallon drums and recycled along with other cooking greases. The butter and greases are refined into an ingredient that is used in a variety of non-edible products. Crabtree says in the past these have included soaps, grease for metal forging, cosmetics, tires and biodiesel.

Ohioans were encouraged to sculpt their own butter creations at home during the COVID-19 hiatus.

The Ohio State Fair runs July 27 - Aug. 7 in Columbus.

For decades, fairgoers have flocked to the Dairy Products Building to gaze at the annual butter display at the Ohio State Fair.
American Dairy Association Mideast
/
Provided
For decades, fairgoers have flocked to the Dairy Products Building to gaze at the annual butter display at the Ohio State Fair.

Copyright 2022 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.