In the early 1900s, The Ohio State University and the Dairy Processors of Ohio sponsored butter sculpting contests at the Ohio State Fair. The subjects of these contests were not restricted to specific things. In 1903, the first butter cow and calf were featured at the Fair, sculpted by A. T. Shelton & Company, distributors of Sunbury Co-Operative Creamery butter.
The first butter cow and calf were featured at the Fair in 1903. Eventually, the butter cow and calf found a permanent home in the Dairy Products Building which was built in the 1920s. New cow and calf sculptures are created each year, reflecting positive ideals and cultural trends in Ohio, and have become a Fair tradition.
A temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit is maintained inside the cooler. Each year, approximately 500,000 people visit the Dairy Products Building to see the butter sculptures and enjoy dairy products. In 2017, a team of artists worked 500 hours and used 2,000 pounds of butter to create the masterpiece and its accompanying sculpture.
Some previously featured butter sculptures include:
- 90th anniversary of the ice cream cone
- A bald eagle
- A Hasbro Tonka Truck
- A salute to the armed forces
- A tribute to Ohio’s dairy farmers
- A tribute to The Ohio State Buckeyes
- A tribute to the Olympics
- Darth Vader
- Dave Thomas of Wendy’s
- Jack Nicklaus
- John Glenn
- Mr. Monopoly
- Neil Armstrong
- The Liberty Bell
- Columbus Bicentennial birthday cake
- A tribute to the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir
- A tribute to Ohio symbols
One of the most common questions we hear about the butter sculptures is – “what happens to the butter after the fair?” The American Dairy Association Mideast uses butter for the display that is past its expiration date and not able to be used. After the Fair, the butter is recycled and refined into an ingredient used in products like biodiesel, animal feed, tires and cosmetics.