Behind The Bonkers Butter Sculptures At Minnesota’s Dairy Pageant
To honor the hard-working dairy farmers of Minnesota, a pageant is held every year before the Minnesota State Fair. Contestants are judged on expected agricultural pageant criteria, like communication skills and knowledge of dairy, and the winner earns the humorous title of Princess Kay of the Milky Way. What sets this apart from any other similar competition is that the winner and other finalists become butter sculptures during the State Fair.
Yes, the heads of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and the eleven other finalists are turned into lifelike statues made of everyone’s favorite churned dairy product. This has been a tradition since 1965, and for the last 50 years, one artist has been responsible for carving the dairy princesses.
Each sculpture begins with a 90-pound slab of butter and a 40-degree booth. The pageant contestant has to sit in the near-freezing booth for six to eight hours while the artist crafts their likeness, and the result is surprisingly good. This is not sarcasm. The butter sculptures are really well-done.
This is because, since 1972, the artist behind the butter princesses has been a master of the craft named Linda Christensen. After graduating from art school, she took over the role and has since been responsible for every Princess Kay sculpture. This means that in her tenure, she has sculpted more than 500 butter heads.
Christensen’s work is a main draw to the State Fair, too. The booth that she and the contestants are in during the crafting process is covered with glass and is located on the fairgrounds. Visitors can watch the artist in action every day of the State Fair, as a different contestant is sculpted each day.
After half a century of butter, though, Christensen is now retiring, and the 2021 State Fair was her last. Don’t worry, though, as she has been training a protege who will now take over the Princess Kay butter sculpture duties.
What happens to the sculptures after the fair? Contestants get to keep them if they want, but seeing as the sculptures melt if not kept in the right conditions, a lot of them end up being used for, well, butter purposes. Even if they don’t end up in a refrigerated museum, at least the butter heads get their moment in the cold spotlight of the Minnesota State Fair.
Top Image: Jonathunder, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons