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Leave the butter cow aloooooone!

Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014

* Scott Reeder

My daughter tugged on my hand and said, “Come on Dad let’s see the Butter Cow.”

So we walked over to the Dairy Building at the Illinois State Fair and gawked at 500 pounds of butter sculpted into the shape of a life-size cow.

The bovine is encased in glass and refrigerated to preserve it during sweltering August days.

I couldn’t help but think what a perfect illustration this is of Illinois State Government.

Where else but Springfield would a shrine be generated out of fat?

* I love Scott. I really do. I enjoy his company and I enjoy reading his columns. But he sure does love to pick on the State Fair. Another recent missive

Sorry, fairs are nice but not something in which government should be involved. They have known that for quite some time in the Lone Star State.

The State Fair of Texas is operated by a nonprofit corporation that manages to take in about $8 million more than it spends each year. That money gets spent on improving the Dallas city park where the fair takes place.

So state fairs can break even. They can even turn a profit.

* Yeah, if Springfield’s metro area was as large as the Dallas metro region, the Fair would have a much larger nearby population to draw from and it would undoubtedly rake in lots more money.

So, who’s for moving the State Fair to Chicago? Anybody? Hello? Bueller?

The Texas State Fair is also the venue for the annual Red River Showdown, a college football game pitting the University of Oklahoma against arch rivals at The University of Texas. Maybe we could put the new Chicago State Fairgrounds by Wrigley Field and have the Cubs play the Cardinals all week.

* I have loved the State Fair since I was a 4-H kid growing up on a farm in Iroquois County. The State Fair was the ultimate goal of every active 4-H member. Only the best animals, projects, etc. made it to the “big show.” It was like the Oscars for 4-H kids.

The Fair rewards excellence and builds strong character traits, and that should be praised, not penny-pinched into oblivion.

I mean, do you know how many early mornings I trudged through the snow to feed my steer and scoop the poop out of his pen before breakfast so I might have a chance at the bigtime? Now, I wake up every morning and do basically the same thing, only figuratively, and I don’t usually have to trudge through snowbanks because I work out of my house when we’re not in session.

We need more of this in Illinois, not less.

All the other stuff - the carnival rides, the corn dogs, the grandstand - are just money-making sideshows to help fund the “real” Fair that someone without an ag background probably wouldn’t understand unless he or she opened his or her mind.

* But I digress. Back to the butter cow as an “only in Illinois” illustration of why this state has problems. According to the AP, Iowa, New York, Utah and Kansas all have butter cows. Iowa’s is the oldest and the first, started over 100 years ago.


Wisconsin and Indiana state fairs feature mammoth cheese carvings.

But Minnesota may come the closest to Iowa in celebration of its dairy sculptures. The state’s dairy queen — Princess Kay of the Milky Way — and her court are immortalized in butter busts.

Other state sculptures have included Darth Vader

* Wikipedia

The history of carving food into sculptured objects is ancient. Archaeologists have found bread and pudding molds of animal and human shapes at sites from Babylon to Roman Britain. Butter sculpture is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition; yak butter and dye are still used to create temporary symbols for the Tibetan New Year and other religious celebrations. […]

The earliest butter sculpture in the modern sense (as public art and not a banquet centerpiece) can be traced to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition where Caroline Shawk Brooks, a farm woman from Helena, Arkansas, displayed her Dreaming Iolanthe, a basrelief bust of a woman modeled in butter. It was kept cold with a system of layered bowls and frequent ice changes

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    immortalized in butter busts

    That is how I want to die.

  2. - Give Me A Break - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:27 am:

    Would a Bruce the Gov, shake up the butter cow and downsize it? Maybe have it carved by the low bidder using non-union artist?

  3. - Anonymoiis - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    When I was a kid walking many times through the Dairy build fin I pictured it as a cow carved out of a giant glob of butter. Finding out it was really now just butter over wire mesh was like learning Santa wasn’t real

  4. - Dirty Red - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    I usually disagree with most of what Reeder has in his columns, but the thought of privatizing at least the Du Quoin State Fair has crossed my mind more than once in recent years.

  5. - OneMan - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:31 am:



  6. - PoolGuy - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:34 am:

    the person or persons who sculpt the butter cow have extraordinary artistic talent. i hope Reeder is not mocking that part. they also sell ice cream in the same building that kids love to visit. hope he didn’t share his thoughts with his own daughter.

  7. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    I’m glad it’s encased in glass, lest it get tipped.

  8. - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    Well there was a proposal to put race tracks and slots at the fair grounds which would have brought money into the fairgrounds all year long. I believe that was struck out because somebody didn’t want gambling at the fairgrounds because the fair is a family event. Of course the only time that there is gambling at the fairgrounds is during said family event (the State Fair).

    Who on earth operates under that kind of logic?

  9. - Anonymoiis - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 11:57 am:


    It’s butter (and some cream mixed in I believe), sculpted over a wood and wire mesh frame.

  10. - Allen Skillicorn - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    We can’t afford to pay our pension debt, but we subsidize the state fair so both political parties can have a good time. Speaks volumes about our priorities…

  11. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    ===. Speaks volumes about our priorities===

    Yeah, billions and billions of dollars every year for the Fair and a couple million for pensions.

    Oh, wait.

  12. - a drop in - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    “I mean, do you know how many early mornings I trudged through the snow to feed my steer and scoop the poop out of his pen before breakfast so I might have a chance at the bigtime? Now, I wake up every morning and do basically the same thing, only figuratively,….”

    So the intertubes acting up would be your current version of a bum steer?

  13. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    Where else but Springfield would a shrine be generated out of fat?

    It isn’t a shrine. It is a delicious condiment which provides essential nutrients like Vitamin A and D. A single tablespoon of butter gives you 18% of your daily need of fat, 35% which is saturated and you need that everyday too.

    That butter cow could feed a hundred fat-needy people, and provide more nutrition than anything Scott Reeder has written.

    Last time I checked, he can’t compete with the butter cow - or the fried Oreos.

  14. - Louis G Atsaves - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:21 pm:

    How is the actual attendance this year at the State Fair? I called and got a nearby hotel room at the last second, something that used to be difficult in the past.

    I usually attend every other year.

  15. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:23 pm:

    Here is a jpeg of the butter Dreaming Iolanthe. It is truly amazing.’s_play_King_Ren%C3%A9’s_Daughter_1876.jpg

  16. - Waffle Fries - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    The State Fair is wonderful and I love going, even more so now that I have a family. I took my boys on Sunday afternoon…my two year old was so into checking out the tractors, horses, cows, and swine - he was amazed and loved it. Little guy was so worn out when we got home.

    This is an amazing event and I love it. I hope it continues its traditions.

  17. - yo - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    the urban vs. rural divide is like a chasm now-a-days…

  18. - Rusty618 - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    Keep the Fair in Springfield (and DuQuoin)! It draws in more than just local Springfield people. As a child we drove from the metro-east area to the Fair every year. Both fair facilities also have the mile dirt tracks that bring run horse racing, Silver Crown champ cars and ARCA stock cars that draw in very big crowds, and has a lot of tradition. There is nothing around Chicago like this.

  19. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:36 pm:

    ===How is the actual attendance this year at the State Fair?===

    Packed over the weekend, but sparse last night.

  20. - How Ironic - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:46 pm:

    @ Allen Skillicorn: “We can’t afford to pay our pension debt, but we subsidize the state fair so both political parties can have a good time. Speaks volumes about our priorities…”

    Stop being a dofus. The State Fair is not subsidized. They host events 365 days a year, and the fair funding is not GRF. Additionally the fair enshrined in state law and must be held BY STATUTE (20 ILCS 210/5) (from Ch. 127, par. 1705. Ticket prices have been raised in recent years as well. Annual attendance was over 900,000 last year alone.

  21. - Stones - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    Rich, In my youth I was a 4-H member and I once had a photograph of the St. Louis Arch that won Grand Champion at our County Fair. I was absolutely thrilled and honored to be able to compete in the big show in Springfield (won a Blue Ribbon there too).

  22. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:34 pm:

    I could have sworn I saw Reeder gobbling down free fair food courtesy of state taxpayers at the media preview day while waiting to get his media pass so he wouldn’t have to pay to get into this fair that he says should figure out how to be profitable.

    Hmmm. How indeed.

  23. - Marty Funkhouser - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:41 pm:

    What Michelle said. ^

  24. - olddog - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:19 pm:

    @ Soccermom 12:23pm

    I couldn’t open the file, but got into it by Googling keywords “butter Dreaming Iolanthe.” It *is* truly amazing.

  25. - K3 - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:24 pm:

    I used to really enjoy Scott’s columns until he became a resident at Illinois Policy Institute. Now he’s just another shrill ’sky is falling’ pessimist

  26. - And I Approved This Message - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:26 pm:

    I have a picture on my desk of of the State Fair Butter Cow from about 25 years ago. Makes my day every morning.

  27. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:53 pm:

    If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything is a nail.

    But seriously, if Reeder got in on a press pass and was grazing at the freebie trough, he has no business writing that column.

  28. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 4:29 pm:

    Slinger, feeding members of the 4th estate to cover events is like feeding the wedding band. You don’t have to do it, but if you want another set, it’s a really economic way to get it. Ain’t one of them that doesn’t wax poetic afterwards about a deep fried twinkie or oreo. It’s part of the gig. Free beer for your pals, uh, not so much.

  29. - ok... - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 4:30 pm:

    Illinois State Fair is a joke at best, horrible attendance, ok fair and no good attractions, if you want to go to a good state fair to next door to Iowa or save some money and go to the Texas State Fair.

  30. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 4:37 pm:

    A guy:

    Just don’t give them any free beer tickets, or you will get a knock on your door from the Ethics officer.

  31. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 4:40 pm:

    BTW, Rich, I think Wisconsin’s State Fair Park operates in the black. It is in Wisconsin.

    I am all for moving the State Fair to Cook County, preferably somewhere along the Will County line.

    I believe Chicago has the largest 4-H chapter in the state.

  32. - Finally Out (formerly Ready to Get Out) - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 5:41 pm:

    ok @ 4:30…

    How do you save money by going to the Texas fair?

  33. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 5:52 pm:

    a guy, isn’t that your “girl” that has the thing with cow tipping?

  34. - East Central Illinois - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 6:09 pm:

    Just went to the State Fair on Sunday. Both my kids were fortunate enough to have 4-H projects on display there and compete at the “big show”. The State Fair is huge with all the agricultural related items that it has to offer.

    Never move it to Chicago or anywhere up there north of I-80.

  35. - Coffee Cup - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 6:25 pm:

    Geeze, take it easy on Scott. It isn’t like he attacked motherhood and apple pie.
    Actually, it probably would be a swell idea to hold the state fair up by Chicago for one year just to let more people up in Chicago get a chance to see what agriculture in Illinois is really like. I would imagine that Chicagoans would really appreciate that since they are already paying their fair share to hold the state fair each year.
    Does anyone know how old the Illinois State Fair is? I know Iowa is older than the Illinois State Fair but I was curious as to how much longer it has been held than the State Fair in Illinois.

  36. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 8:26 pm:

  37. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 9:34 pm:

    –Never move it to Chicago or anywhere up there north of I-80.–

    Of course, leave it in Springfield where it belongs.

    A little more hustle on the corporate sponsorship would help. Use the google and check out the Wisconsin State Fair sponsorships compared to the Illinois State Fair. Not even close.

  38. - Cathryn - Thursday, Aug 21, 14 @ 4:55 am:


  39. - Luisa - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 9:43 pm:


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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