2022 Ohio State Fair butter cow honors the state's agricultural history
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the famous Ohio State Fair butter cow display is back — and the cows are bringing their farmyard friends.
Each year's theme is a closely guarded secret. Past sculptures have included astronauts, athletes, sports teams, state symbols, choirs, the Columbus bicentennial and more.
This year's theme honors the fair's "rich agricultural heritage," according to the American Dairy Association Mideast, which creates the annual display.
"This year, in addition to the cow and calf, who are actually being shown by kids, you'll see three other animals in the cooler with the cow and calf — for the first time ever: farm animals. We have a pig, a lamb and a chicken, and all of those animals are being shown by kids. So 10 sculptures total: five kids, five animals," said Jenny Crabtree, senior vice president of communications.
Crabtree notes this is the biggest butter cow display the association has ever done at the state fair. It tops the 2008 exhibit which memorialized Ohio's presidents.
"It's so fun. I love it," she exclaims.
How much butter does it take to sculpt five children and five farm animals? The display uses 2,530 pounds of butter.
"It took a team of six sculptors about 500 hours of actual sculpting," says Crabtree. "And they do that inside the display case there at the fairgrounds."
The butter sculptures are housed in a refrigerated display case set at 46 degrees. The association expects half a million visitors will check out the dairy display, making it what they say is the most popular exhibit at the fair each year.
The butter cow dates back to 1903.
Sculptors use expired butter to make their creations. They start with wooden and steel frames, then slice 55-pound blocks into manageable loaves and layer over the frames. From there, they begin molding and sculpting the butter, with fine details added last.
What happens to the more than 2,000 pounds of butter once the fair is over?
The butter is scraped into 55 gallon drums and recycled along with other cooking greases. The butter and greases are refined into an ingredient that is used in a variety of non-edible products. Crabtree says in the past these have included soaps, grease for metal forging, cosmetics, tires and biodiesel.
Ohioans were encouraged to sculpt their own butter creations at home during the COVID-19 hiatus.
The Ohio State Fair runs July 27 - Aug. 7 in Columbus.
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