Molding butter into art, creating a cow butter sculpture at the Kansas State Fair

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Crafting one of her favorite animals out of butter does not feel like a job to Sarah Pratt, the official butter sculptor of the Kansas State Fair.

Every second year, the state fair has the sculptor form a cow, honoring where the reusable butter came from. But for Pratt, it also honors her beginnings in sculpting.

When she was a teenager, she used to visit Norma Duffield “Duffy” Lyons – the first butter sculptor at the Kansas State Fair. Pratt, who lives with her family in West Des Moines, apprenticed under Lyons, of Toledo, Iowa, for more than a decade, eventually becoming a sought-after sculptor.

Each year, Pratt, a teacher by trade, travels to the Iowa, Illinois and Kansas state fairs, often sculpting cows.

“I love it here in Kansas because kids can rub their noses up against the glass and watch,” she said. “I’m surrounded by glass on three sides.”

Pratt said at the Iowa fair, the booth is larger but one-sided. In Illinois, she is done with her sculpture before the fair starts – so no one can watch the process.

The process of butter sculpting

She usually travels with her husband and trusty cow frame, which she adjusts to fit each sculpture.

“This is the same one that I brought down my first year in 2016,” Pratt said. “Every year, we rebuild it to make it a different breed.”

Along with metal legs, the frame has a rectangular wood frame with wire mesh.

“Last year, I made it larger to fit the bison,” she said.

In addition to this year’s cow, Pratt will place a cat, a sunflower, and something to do with either bread or wheat in the 38-degree cooler. Often, Pratt likes to go with her imagination and artistic talents to add decorations.

“This is the same one that I brought down my first year in 2016,” Pratt said. “Every year, we rebuild it to make it a different breed.”

Along with metal legs, the frame has a rectangular wood frame with wire mesh.

“Last year, I made it larger to fit the bison,” she said.

In addition to this year’s cow, Pratt will place a cat, a sunflower, and something to do with either bread or wheat in the 38-degree cooler. Often, Pratt likes to go with her imagination and artistic talents to add decorations.

“Kansas is the breadbasket of the world and of the nation,” she said. “I want to do something with that.”

For Pratt, every year is both fun and challenging. Along with her husband Andy Pratt, she maneuvers 700 pounds of reusable butter into a sculpture.

“My process is always changing, evolving,” she said.

This year, Pratt decided to look for inspiration at the fair’s dairy barn and fell in love with a few Jersey calves.

“They were each about 9 months old and nuzzled together,” Pratt said. “In that heard, there was a 3 year old named Sandy she caught our eye.”

So as Pratt works on her butter sculpture, she keeps Sandy’s image in mind.

While she crafts the Jersey cow, dipping her hands into the frigid butter, Pratt listens to either podcasts about history or instrumental music. Her mentor, Lyons, enjoyed listening to classical music while she sculpted.

Pratt begins her sculpting the day before the fair opens, working four, 12-hour days, ending on Sunday. She loves being in the back of the Pride of Kansas building, where she can look out on prize-winning pumpkins.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “But it’s wonderful here.”

As reported in The Hutchinson News

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