COLUMBUS -- Each summer, hundreds of thousands of visitors at the Ohio State Fair make their way through the Dairy Products Building to gaze in amazement at more than a ton of butter sculpted into incredible works of art.
The annual butter display is a long-standing tradition of Ohio’s nearly 1,750 dairy farm families and is sponsored by the American Dairy Association Mideast (ADA Mideast). It is the most visited attraction at the fair, and the theme of the display is one of the best-kept secrets of the summer.
Because the fair is not happening in 2020, this year’s butter cow tradition will be celebrated virtually in a brand new way — by encouraging fair lovers to build their own butter cow. Through a DIY Butter Cow Challenge, everyone can put their artistic skills to the test and get firsthand experience creating their own butter cow. One lucky sculptor will win a YETI cooler to keep their butter treats chilled.
Paul Brooke, who has served as the butter cow display’s lead sculptor for 20 years, offers step-by-step video instruction to help butter cow enthusiasts sculpt their own mini cow. To get started, participants will need a pair of latex gloves, a 12” X 6” wooden board and at least two pounds of butter — this is quite a difference from the more than 2,000 pounds of butter normally used to create the annual butter display. You may also want to use some armature wire (.125 in. and .062 in.) and crafting tools to help you sculpt a truly authentic-looking butter cow.
From July 28 through Aug. 9, novice sculptors are encouraged to comment with a photo of their butter cow on ADA Mideast’s Facebook page or share their image with #BuildYourButterCow on ADA Mideast’s Twitter or Instagram. The winning DIY sculpture will be announced Aug. 10.
After you snap your photo of your completed mini butter cow, it will make a beautiful (and delicious) centerpiece on your dinner table, or easily transform your cow into creamy, herb-infused butter with one of ADA Mideast’s signature recipes, like Cilantro, Lime & Chile Salt Butter.
Over the years, butter display themes have honored unique sources of Ohio pride, such as sports championships from the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Cavaliers, locally-produced cinematic icons including A Christmas Story, and historic achievements by famous Ohioans, like Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 moon landing. And, while these unprecedented times are changing how we celebrate this year, the butter cow tradition lives on with the millions who have experienced this unique attraction.
“While we’ll all be apart this year to help everyone stay safe and healthy, we’ll still be celebrating Ohio’s dairy farm families and the annual butter cow tradition,” said Jenny Crabtree, senior vice president of communications for ADA Mideast. “We want to see everyone’s favorite memories from the Dairy Products Building to reminisce about how this tradition has brought friends, families and neighbors together for generations.”
In addition to building your own butter cow, ADA Mideast is encouraging everyone to keep the tradition alive by sharing their favorite butter cow stories and photos on social media. Using #OHButterCowHistory, we will come together to remember these special moments and look forward to making more memories together in the future.
“Both of my kids tasted ice cream for the very first time in the Dairy Products Building. Getting a treat and seeing the display is something we all look forward to,” said Robert Leitch of Hilliard, who makes a point of seeing the butter cow display with his family every year at the fair. “I love looking at our family photos year after year and seeing them grow up with this tradition.”
The butter displays are brought to life each year by a technical sculpting team, all from Ohio, who spend more than 400 hours carefully chiseling every small detail in a 46-degree cooler. The displays have evolved along with the tradition, with sculptors creating increasingly elaborate designs to live alongside the butter cow and calf in the cooler. Sculptors have built intricate supports and integrated features, like tinted butter and colorful lights, in recent years, gaining national recognition and attention from media outlets across the country.
“It’s something I’m truly proud to be a part of and have been lucky enough to enjoy each year for a long time,” said Brooke. “It will be fun to share that feeling of accomplishment with everyone this year, and I can’t wait to see how their mini butter cows come together.”
The annual butter display is also a memorable way to honor the work and contributions of Ohio’s dairy farm families. The display is always accompanied with information that enables fairgoers to learn about how Ohio’s dairy farmers care for their cows, their land and their communities. Even during uncertain times, dairy farmers are committed to continuing to produce the safe, delicious, wholesome dairy foods we all know and enjoy. Dairy farmers work around-the-clock, 365 days each year to care for their animals and keep our families and friends healthy, nourished and connected.
The butter display and the Dairy Products Building are made possible each year by ADA Mideast, Ohio’s dairy farmer-funded marketing and promotion program. For more information, visit www.Drink-Milk.com.