Butter cow sculpture returns in 2021 alongside an Iowa State Fair mainstay that is celebrating 50 years
Iowa State Fair organizers announced Tuesday morning that, after a year of absence, the butter cow is set to return alongside a buttery reconstruction of a fair mainstay.
Constructed by butter sculpting veteran Sarah Pratt, this year's butter cow will be paired with a re-creation of the Iowa State Fair's Giant Slide in honor of its 50th year in operation. The two sculptures will be located in the butter cooler in the John Deere Agriculture Building throughout the fair's run, Aug. 12-22.
A new feature fairgoers may notice is the addition of a figure accompanying the bovine sculpture.
"Normally the butter cow usually stands alone," Pratt said. "This year there'll be someone leading the cow in the image of Joe Lyon."
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Lyon was the husband of Pratt's sculpting predecessor, the late Norma "Duffy" Lyon.
He died in late January at 92-years-old. His inclusion is not only a nod to the literal hand his wife had in the annual sculpture, but his own prominence in the dairy industry as a cattle breeder and an active participant with various state and national industry organizations.
"He was world-renowned in the dairy industry and a remarkable man in terms of advocating for our town, and dairy, and being an amazing human being," Pratt said.
As for selecting the Giant Slide, Pratt said she wanted to pick something that would spark joy following what has been a tumultuous year for many.
"When I asked my son what he was going to miss most, he said, ‘the Giant Slide,'" Pratt recalled the 9-year-old saying when the fair was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Several others she talked with expressed fondness for the State Fair monument, she said.
Pratt and her daughters began working on the sculptures this weekend. Plans for the Giant Slide are still in the works, but Pratt said rather than create a miniature replica of the whole slide, she wants to capture a small segment — the thrill of racing down.
"Being back in the cooler feels phenomenal and it's been such a family affair for us," she said.
The State Fair was canceled last year for the first time since World War II. The famous butter sculptures never manifested, though Pratt used some of that time to teach the art of butter sculpting to others in online classes.
Because of last year's absence, the last time Iowans saw a themed State Fair butter sculpture was in 2019 when Big Bird, Elmo and other "Sesame Street" characters were brought to life.
Like the Giant Slide, Pratt's "Sesame Street" sculptures were also created in celebration of the show's 50th anniversary.
The 50-foot-tall, yellow-and-green slide that is the subject of Pratt's project was first introduced to the State Fair in 1971. The slide has attracted more than 5 million guests over its half a century in operation, according to estimates from Iowa State Fair organizers.
In 2020, the slide was moved from its previous location to a space southeast of the Varied Industries Building and north of the Walnut Center to provide more space for guests.