sculpting the butter cow

5 Fun Facts about the Butter Cow Display

by Jenny Hubble

In the heat of the summer, one of Ohio’s coolest traditions takes shape year after year. The butter sculpture display at the Ohio State Fair dates back to the early 1900s!

In the early 1900s, butter sculpting contests were held at the Ohio State Fair and sponsored by The Ohio State University and the dairy processors of Ohio. The subjects of these contests were not restricted to specific themes.

Eventually, the butter cow, and later the calf, found a permanent “home” in the Dairy Products Building, which was constructed in the 1920s. New cow and calf sculptures are sculpted 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.

Wondering who the butter cow and calf will share their cooler with this year? Our lips are sealed! Enjoy these fun facts while you wait for the big unveiling on July 24, 2018 at Noon.

  1. The butter cow and calf are sculpted from scratch each year by a team of 5 Ohio-based sculptors. The technical sculpting team includes lead sculptors Paul Brooke and Alex Balz of Cincinnati, Tammy Buerk of West Chester, Erin Swearingen of Columbus and Matt Davidson, a dairy farmer from Sidney.
  2. The butter display is made from about 2,200 pounds of unsalted butter.
  3. The butter display is completed in about 500 hours, of which 400 hours are spent sculpting in a 46°F walk-in cooler.
  4. More than 500,000 fairgoers visit the Dairy Products Building annually to see the butter sculptures and enjoy ice cream, milkshakes and cheese sandwiches.
  5. After the fair, the butter is recycled and refined into an ingredient used in products like biodiesel, animal feed, tires and cosmetics.


Some previous butter displays include:

  • Chocolate milk, the Official Beverage of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’
  • Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship
  • A Tribute to Ohio’s State Symbols
  • Ohio State Football National Championship
  • Anniversary of the All-Ohio Youth Choir
  • A Salute to the Columbus Bicentennial
  • A Tribute to the Nation’s Space Program
  • Fuel Up to Play 60 school wellness program
  • The People Behind the Product – a Salute to Ohio’s Dairy Farmers
  • Tribute to Ohio’s U.S. Presidents

Jenny Hubble

Jenny is the Senior Vice President of Communications for the American Dairy Association Mideast. Although Jenny’s roots are in agriculture, she now considers herself a city dweller. In her free time, Jenny enjoys cooking, running, dabbling in photography and playing with her dog!

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