Crafting the State Fair's Butter Sculptures - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Crafting the State Fair's Butter Sculptures

 By: Jason Rantala


For 23 years, Sarah Pratt has been in the butter sculpting business.

The Toledo, Iowa native spends several days in the fridge, working weekends, evenings, sculpting the State Fair's favorite works of butter.

"I was about 14 when I started," said Pratt.

After taking over for legendary butter sculptor Norma "Duffy" Lion in 2006, Sarah now spends eight to nine days straight before the Fair, working inside what is essentially a giant 42 degree fridge.

It takes up to 1,200 pounds of butter for all of Sarah's creations, like the famous butter cow.

All of the Fair's sculpting butter is donated. A lot of it is also really old. For example, they're still reusing butter from 2005.

This year she is sculpting Abraham Lincoln and the highway named after him, in celebration of their respective anniversaries.

All the butter is carefully crafted to each sculpture's wire frame.

"I add in all the muscle and detail on top of that."

For every sculpture, attention to detail is key.

"I'm trying to add as many details as possible, veins, and the details in the muscle, clothing and his hair and really getting the face for Lincoln is key. He had such an iconic face."

Constructing Lincoln meant research: reading biographies, studying photographs and paintings, all to perfect his finest details.

Each sculpture has its challenges. Lincoln's hands are particularly hard to mold.  So are the ribs on the butter cow.

Yet, as every fair comes, so too, does it go.

After the fair, the butter is warmed up and placed inside cold storage until next year.

But for 11 days, it's Sarah's time to shine.

"I love being a part of the Iowa State Fair. I love watching the fairgoers walk past the cooler and seeing the sculptures and appreciating it and being a part of that legacy here at the fair. It's a fun thing."


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