The year was 1903. Teddy Roosevelt was President, The Ford Motor Company was beginning production of The Ford Model A and something happened in Ohio that would change the state forever: The first butter cow was featured at the Ohio State Fair. The annual creation of a butter cow and her calf is now a time-honored tradition, and this year is no exception as sculpting began on the 2019 butter cow this week.
If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, we’re talking about a life-sized cow sculpted from butter. But there’s much more to this dairy delight than meets the eye. Sculpting begins with the construction of steel and wood frames, which are then covered with layers upon layers of farm-fresh butter. The true task at hand begins when it’s time to mold and smooth the creamy lump into a perfect, seriously life-like cow.
Last year, the theme was based on the classic Cleveland-based film A Christmas Story, which was celebrating its 35th anniversary. The display featured Ralphie in his bunny suit, the film's iconic leg lamp, a Christmas tree dressed with twinkling lights and Randy, Flick and the butter calf with their tongues "frozen" to a pole.
Other sculpture displays from years past have included everything from the Liberty Bell to Neil Armstrong and Darth Vader. The theme always centers around “positive ideals and cultural trends in Ohio,” according to the Ohio State Fair, but there’s no telling what additions will be made this year — the theme is being kept a tight-knit secret by the American Dairy Association until the unveiling on July 23.
The Ohio State Fair runs from July 24-Aug. 4, where an estimated 500,000 people will tour through the 45-degree Fahrenheit Dairy Products Building to take in the moo-sterpiece in all its buttery glory. The fair is located at 717 E. 17th Ave. in Columbus.