In the heat of the summer, one of Ohio’s coolest traditions takes shape year after year.
In the early 1900s, butter sculpting contests were held at the Ohio State Fair and sponsored by The Ohio State University and Ohio’s dairy processors. The subjects of these contests were not restricted to specific themes.
As a result of one of the sculpting contests, the first butter cow made its debut at the fair in 1903 and was crafted by A.T. Shelton & Co., distributors of Sunbury Cooperative Creamery butter.
Eventually, the butter cow, and later the butter calf, found a permanent “home” in the Dairy Products Building, which was constructed in the 1920s. New cow and calf sculptures are crafted in butter each year, thus becoming a fair tradition.
The Dairy Products Building and the butter sculpture display are sponsored by the American Dairy Association Mideast, Ohio’s dairy-farmer funded marketing and promotion program. Each year, the American Dairy Association Mideast selects an icon or theme to feature in butter that is non-political, non-controversial and reflects optimism and broad audience-appeal.
This year’s display celebrates Ohio’s rich history of innovation and honors several notable Ohio inventors and their groundbreaking inventions that improved lives around the world.
- The butter display is sculpted from scratch each year by a team of five sculptors. The technical sculpting team includes lead sculptor Paul Brooke of Cincinnati and includes Tammy Buerk of West Chester, Erin Birum of Columbus, dairy farmer Matt Davidson of Sidney and Joe Metzler of Auburn.
- The butter display is typically made from about 2,000 pounds of unsalted butter, donated in part by Dairy Farmers of America.
- The butter display is typically completed in about 450 hours.
- More than 500,000 fairgoers visit the Dairy Products Building annually to see the butter sculptures and enjoy ice cream, milkshakes and cheese sandwiches.
- After the fair, the butter is recycled and refined into an ingredient used in a variety of non-edible products.
Some Previous Butter Displays
- A Tribute to the Fair’s Agricultural Heritage
- 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing
- A Tribute to A Christmas Story
- Chocolate milk, the Official Beverage of the Ohio High School Athletic Association
- Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship
- Ohio State Football National Championship
- A Tribute to Ohio’s State Symbols
- Anniversary of the All-Ohio Youth Choir
- A Salute to the Columbus Bicentennial
- A Tribute to the Nation’s Space Program
Learn how to create your own mini Butter Cow at home by following these steps!