As the sweet scent of cotton candy fills the air and children’s laughter echoes throughout the fairgrounds, an iconic figure stands proudly amidst the festivities. This year, the Utah State Fair celebrates the 25th anniversary of a much-cherished tradition – the butter cow sculpture.
A quarter of a century ago, the dairy farmers of Utah sought innovative avenues to showcase the versatility of dairy products. Drawing inspiration from Iowa’s renowned butter sculptures, Utah found its own master sculptors. First came Norma “Duffy” Lyon who generously passed her butter-sculpting secrets to two Utahn artists – Barbara Westover, a gifted wood carver, and Debbie Brown, an accomplished art sculpture major from BYU. Thus, the legacy began.
“The beginnings were rooted in traditionalism,” recalls Debbie Brown. “For nine years, Barbara and I sculpted intricate, lifelike cow scenes. The detailing was so fine that you could see the udder and veins of the cow!” But when a twist of fate called Matt McNaughtan, a budding ceramic sculptor, to join forces with Debbie, whimsical creativity began to churn.
Leaving behind the pastures of realism, the duo ventured into a world of quirky, humanoid cows. From superhero bovines to a cow-rock band and even tributes to Will and Kate’s royal wedding and a Hunger Games theme – these cows have seen it all. “It’s like sculpting with a potter’s clay, only creamier,” chuckles Matt, reminiscing about his unexpected plunge into the world of butter art.
The rich butter, a pivotal ingredient in this art, is graciously supplied by Utah dairy farm families through Dairy West. Their commitment to quality is mirrored in the intricacy of these buttery masterpieces.
Their creative process? A delightful mix of brainstorming sessions, Facebook contests, and sometimes, just leaving the inspiration to serendipity. Bringing these buttery beauties to life requires an astounding 700 pounds of butter and nearly 80 hours of meticulous craftsmanship.
Don’t miss out on witnessing this luscious legacy from September 7th – 17th. The exclusive butter masterpiece awaits you in the Promontory Building alongside other Creative Arts displays.
Debbie and Matt’s bond, fused over butter, has become the creamy heart of the Utah State Fair. As we commemorate this 25-year-long journey, let’s raise our glasses (of milk, of course) to the many more years to come!