“I can’t believe that it’s butter!” You’ll hear this statement from several Fairgoers as they stroll past the Gerken Dairy Center on the Missouri State Fairgrounds during the 2018 Fair. Right inside the chilly dairy cooler stands “Bessie the Butter Cow,” a tradition that has “Come Home” to the Missouri State Fair for the last 18 years.
Since the new Gerken Dairy Center was built 18 years ago, it has become a tradition to create a different sculpture of butter for Fairgoers to enjoy. Each year a theme is chosen and an idea is created to cater to the theme. This year the theme of the sculpture is “Bessie’s First Driving Lesson.” Once the theme is decided the sculptor starts creating Bessie as a smaller version with clay. This small sculpture serves as a mock butter cow to give her a visual of what the sculpture will look like. Once the clay is formed and the idea is established, it’s time to get out the blocks of butter!
The process of creating Bessie begins as a frame made of chicken wire and wood. The butter is then plastered on to the frame and formed into the shape of the cow. Once the butter is on the frame, it is then time for the details to be added to the sculpture. This year the big detail items to look out for on Bessie is a life size stop sign and a car made completely out of butter. In total to create Bessie, it takes 600 pounds of butter in 60 pound blocks. The sculptor begins defrosting and gathering the supplies the week before the State Fair. In total she and her family spend over 100 hours in the cooler creating Bessie!
This tradition is one that several Fairgoers have come to look forward to each summer. They come from around the area and look into the building before the building even opens. Located on the North side of the Gerken Dairy Center, you’ll find that the large cooler features windows for looking thru into the cooler. While the sculptors are working, there are people there watching the processes each day and checking up on Bessie’s progress. Stacy Dohle, manager of Midwest Dairy, shares her own love for this State Fair tradition. “The butter cow has become a state fair tradition and we are excited every year to create something new, unique and fun. We want to make it a “must see” at the fair for fair goers of all ages and hope they leave with a smile and fun memory of the butter cow.”
Some wonder where Bessie goes after the completion of the Fair. Are there past Bessie’s in a cooler in the Gerken Dairy Center? Not quite, but Bessie is still there in different form. Once the Fair has ended, Bessie is put back into blocks of butter and moved back in to the freezer for the next summer. The 600 pounds of unsalted butter is reused for three summers to bring Bessie back home each year for the Fair!
While you attend the Missouri State Fair, make sure to stop by the Gerken Dairy Center for a picture with Bessie the Butter Cow and a sweet treat of ice cream! Their hours for the Fair include:
9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. from August 9-18
9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. on August 19
We can’t wait to see you come home for the 2018 Missouri State Fair in Sedalia from August 9-19!