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.
- The butter display is sculpted from scratch each year by a team of six sculptors. The technical sculpting team includes lead sculptor Paul Brooke of Cincinnati, Tammy Buerk of West Chester, Erin Birum of Columbus, dairy farmer Matt Davidson of Sidney, Joe Metzler of Auburn and Karen Tharp of Ft. Meyers, Fla.
- The butter display is typically made from about 2,000 pounds of unsalted butter but this year, the display consists of 2,530 pounds of butter — making it the biggest ever.
- This year, the butter display was completed in about 600 hours, of which 500 hours are spent sculpting in a 46°F walk-in cooler.
- 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
- 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
- Fuel Up to Play 60 school wellness program
- The People Behind the Product — a Salute to Ohio’s Dairy Farmers
- A Tribute to Ohio’s U.S. Presidents
Learn how to create your own mini Butter Cow at home by following these steps!