© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Curious Cbus: What Happens To The Butter Cow After The Ohio State Fair?

This story originally ran in August 2016 as part of the Curious Cbus project.

Every summer, the beginning of the Ohio State Fair is marked by the unveiling of a new butter sculpture. And this year, the occasion is especially jolly: The American Dairy Association Mideast announced on Tuesday that the 2018 butter sculpture will come straight out of "A Christmas Story."

The association said this year's display marks 35 years since the release of the holiday film, which was shot in Cleveland. Classic scenes from the movie were recreated in butter, including the playground scene where Flick gets his tongue stuck on the pole, as well as butter portraits of Ralphie and his friends and family.

The 14-foot-tall, 58-foot-long sculpture took five sculptors about 500 hours to complete and was formed with 2,200 pounds of butter.

Of course, after the butter sculpture is revealed, another question inevitably arises: "What happens to all the butter from the butter cow and the butter sculptures at the Ohio State Fair when the fair is over?"

On the surface, the answer is simple: It’s thrown away. But the disposal of the butter sculpture hasn’t always been that simple, and it isn’t as wasteful as it seems.

Jenny Hubble from the American Dairy Association explains that the butter used for the sculpture was never intended to be sold.

“The butter that we use in the display is past its expiration date,” Hubble said. “So it was never butter that was intended to go to the marketplace, so it’s a great way to use that product and be able to use it for this promotion at the state fair.”

When the fair ended, Hubble said the butter was packed up and disposed of properly.

But in years past, the State Fair and the American Dairy Association teamed up with Mount Union University, recycled the butter and turned it into biodiesel. That is no longer the case.

“Because it’s only 2,000 pounds of butter, which seems like a lot to you and me, it really was difficult to collect that butter off the armatures and utilize it for fuel,” Hubble said.

In 2017, the butter sculptures included four high school athletes as well as two cows in a "salute to chocolate milk." The sculpture starred a 6-foot-tall bottle colored with cocoa to look like the beverage, the first time the butter sculpture has included color. The dairy association says five sculptors spent about 500 hours creating the display.

The 2016 butter sculptures were handcrafted to honor the 2016 NBA Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Curious about some other Ohio traditions? Ask your own question for the Curious Cbus project below.


Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.