Photos by Jeff Rutherford
The 58th Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Mary Zahurones, climbed back into a 40-degree rotating glass cooler Thursday afternoon at the Minnesota State Fair’s Dairy Building after a warm-up break. She had another hour and a half to go before her image was finally carved into a 90-pound Grade A block of butter.
Zahurones had been sitting for butter sculptor Linda Christensen since early morning. It’s been an opening day fair tradition to carve the newly crowned Princess Kay into butter since the practice began in 1965. The Midwest Dairy Association, sponsors of the butter heads, calls it “butter-riffic.” The 11 finalists get their likenesses sculpted on each of the remaining 11 days. It takes six hours to complete a butter sculpture.
She’s stuck with it through four decades
Fairgoers can watch Christensen etch the butter creations. This year marks Christensen’s 40th anniversary of creating butter sculptures on behalf of dairy farmers at the fair. She has created over 450 sculptures out of 32,000 pounds of butter over the years. The Associated Milk Producers, Inc. in New Ulm provides the butter.
In addition to Princess Kay and finalists, Christensen has sculpted the likenesses of everybody from David Letterman to former First Lady Mary Pawlenty and even Big Bird. She sculpted Conan O’Brien out of chocolate with bacon for hair. A graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in the late 1960s, Christensen visited the butter booth and was inspired to be an artist.
Zahurones, 18, of Pierz is the daughter of Chuck and Pat Tax. She plans to attend the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in the fall as a pre-med student studying biology and chemistry.
Princess Kay candidates are daughters of dairy farmers, employees of dairy farms, or daughters of dairy farm employees. They must be graduating senior in high school when crowned and not yet 24 years old, and they must not be married. They also need to have a general knowledge of the dairy industry ad be committed to dairy promotion.
The history of butter sculpture began in the 1800s when frontier women molded and imprinted their homemade butter.
Wonder what it’s like to get your likeness carved out of butter? There’s an app for that. The Butter-fy Yourself application lets people get a feel of what it’s like to get their image into butter. You can access the app from home, or visitors to the State Fair can give it a try at kiosks in the Dairy Building near the butter sculpting booth.
If you want to turn your Facebook profile picture into a butter personality, you can add your “buttery self” to a virtual postcard. Select from one of six butter personalities: Dairy Princess, Butter Hippie, Butter Cow, Butter Liberty, Butter Bouffant and Butter Up. Next, take your new butter personality and customize it on a postcard from one of 10 Midwest states, and post to your wall.
(Above) The newly crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way: Mary Zahurones of Pierz.
(Above) Butter head sculptor Linda Christenen whittles the final touches to Princess Kay. It takes six hours to carve one butter head.