COLUMBUS — For the first time since 2019, the American Dairy Association Mideast’s annual butter cow display is back at the Ohio State Fair and is bigger than ever, paying homage to the fair’s rich agricultural heritage.
The Ohio State Fair began more than 170 years ago and since then, the fair has grown, welcoming hundreds of thousands of guests each year to enjoy a variety of food, attractions, rides and concerts. But the roots of the fair remain grounded in agriculture, highlighting farm families and their contributions to our communities.
This year’s display features 10 life-size butter sculptures including the traditional cow and calf, and for the first time ever, other livestock – a pig, a lamb and a chicken – all being proudly shown by kids at the fair where they are being recognized for their hard work.
The butter display was sculpted by a team of technical sculptors including lead sculptor Paul Brooke of Cincinnati and Tammy Buerk of West Chester, Erin Birum of Columbus, dairy farmer Matt Davidson of Sidney, Joe Metzler of Auburn and Karen Tharp of Fort Myers, Florida.
In a video about the sculptures, Madelyn Topp, 19, of Botkins, is interviewed about her family’s involvement at the Ohio State Fair.
“State fair is one of our favorite times because we get to see so many people, I get to interact with the public and talk with them. They ask me so many questions about the dairy industry and I love to tell them everything I know because the dairy industry and being involved with these girls and these cows are everything I live for,” said Topp.
She said there have been generations of her family who have shown animals at the Ohio State Fair.
Topp says dairy farming has been a part of her life from the very beginning:
“Ever since I’ve been little, we’ve been out here milking every single day. So one thing that’s very unique about the dairy industry is, uh, no matter the holiday, no matter the weather, no matter it’s 110 degrees or negative 10 degrees, doesn’t matter. We’re out here every day.”
While the butter sculptures typically weigh-in around 2,000 pounds, this year’s record-breaking display uses 2,530 pounds of butter, donated in part by Dairy Farmers of America, and was completed in 600 hours, 500 of which were spent sculpting.
The butter sculptures are exhibited in the Dairy Products Building at the Ohio Expo Center in a large walk-in refrigerated cooler that is 36 feet long by 11 feet wide and maintained at an energy-efficient 46 degrees.
The butter cow display attracts more than 500,000 visitors to the Ohio State Fair, often gaining nationwide recognition and media attention. A long-standing tradition for Ohio’s 1,550 dairy farm families, the American Dairy Association Mideast chooses an icon or theme to feature in butter that is non-political, non-controversial and reflects optimism and broad audience appeal. Each year, the theme of the butter cow display is one of the best-kept secrets leading up to the fair.
The Dairy Products Building is open daily and offers a variety of dairy foods, including the Ohio State Fair official ice cream flavor Red, White & Blueberry – a vanilla ice cream ice cream with strawberry pieces and a blueberry swirl by Velvet Ice Cream. A variety of other ice cream flavors, milkshakes, cheese sandwiches and milk are also available.
While visiting the Dairy Products Building, fair visitors can learn about how Ohio’s dairy farmers care for their cows and land to produce safe, wholesome milk.
The butter display and the Dairy Products Building are sponsored by the American Dairy Association Mideast, Ohio’s dairy farmer-funded marketing and promotion program. For more information, visit www.drink-milk.com.