I had never heard of a butter sculptor or the famous Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair until I moved to this fine state and attended my first fair in 1998.
Iowa is unique in that there is actually someone who is trained to make a life-size cow and various other characters from Star Trek to Sesame Street, John Deere and Elvis out of butter.
That task goes to Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines, who spent 15 years learning the butter sculpting trade from the now late Norma “Duffy” Lyon of Toledo. Lyon sculptured her first butter cow in 1960. Pratt took the butter cow reins in 2006 and is only the fifth butter sculptor in Iowa State Fair history since the first butter cow was made in 1911.
Pratt has also sculptured butter projects at the Kansas State Fair for a number of years. One of her most recent projects was a butter sculpture of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz characters, the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man in 2019. Pratt even made ruby red slippers for Dorothy using red dye and moldy butter for consistency, she said in an interview.
And in 2017, Pratt and her husband visited my hometown fair, the Tulsa State Fair, where they created a Tilt-A-Whirl butter sculpture.
And thinking of butter sculptures, a few years ago, Debbie and I were invited to be special guests at an Iowa State Fair themed day at a summer school at Meredith Middle School in Des Moines.
If my memory serves me right, we had offered to donate some of our books to a Des Moines teacher we met through another teacher, who just happens to be the daughter of the people who run the horseshoe operation at the Iowa State Fair.
She passed our name along to another teacher and that led to us somehow being invited to this summer school. The teachers are all working on their master’s degree through Drake University.
The idea was to give young people with various backgrounds and cultures from around the world who now call Des Moines home a chance to learn about the Iowa State Fair. I believe Pratt made an appearance at the school the previous year and taught the students how to make mini butter cow sculptors.
The DM Register and local television stations were there and filmed the experience. A story in the next day’s Register mentioned our state fair book.
It was neat to meet the students and share our books and talents with them. We gave away a number of signed books that day. But more importantly, we shared our culture, talents and ideas with others. We need more of that in our country during these trying times.
Life is like that. You make connections and meet people on your life journey and that can led to many good things and experiences. A last minute story idea led me to the Iowa State Fair in 2003 where I met Debbie.
I once drove through Montezuma on my way back to Columbia, Mo. I never had any idea that I would one day meet my wife, work and live in Montezuma. I’ve been here for 21 years.
Life is about living and making memories with family and friends. If you have a little extra time, take a trip Des Moines and enjoy the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 12 – 22.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.