Farm Horizons, Nov. 2006

Heads of butter

By Jennifer Gallus

What happens to a 90-pound block of butter that looks like a princess?

The 90-pound, grade A blocks of butter used for the Princess Kay of the Milky Way pageants’ royal carvings are courtesy of Associated Milk Producers of New Ulm. After the carving is complete, the finished butter head weighs in at around 50 or 60 pounds. It is evident that no two butter heads share the same story after they are taken home by their princesses.

The 2005 Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Becky (Dammann) Reuter, originally from Lester Prairie said, “I still have the butter head in my mom and dad’s freezer. My mom really likes it, she wants to keep it forever!”

Becky reported that the butter head travelled first to the C-Store gas station in Plato for display, then to the grocery store in Lester Prairie, which was Nelson’s Marketplace at the time.

The butter head was then taken home for Becky’s Princess Kay open house. The butter head remained in the freezer, and is there yet today except for making an appearance at Coborn’s in Glencoe for Dairy Month last June.

Still up for debate is whether the butter head will be at Becky’s wedding reception celebration in July.

Becky explained that she not only took home a butter head, but also two five-gallon buckets of butter scraps after the carving was complete. These scraps have been used in Christmas baking, and have been given to family and friends. “There’s a lot of butter to use up before you even would need to dig into the butter head,” Becky said.

Angie (Bakeberg) Barlau of Waverly was a Princess Kay finalist in 2001. Angie reported that she had her butter head in the freezer until 2005. Angie took her butter likeness to the Wright County Dairy Princess 50th Anniversary for display.

Upon bringing the sculpture home, Angie said that it was very soft, and no longer re-freezable. Angie reports the beloved butter head was burned in a bonfire that evening.

The 1982 Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Janet (Forner) Bosch, hailing from Carver County, said she kept her butter head in the freezer for about one year.

Bosch reported that during the first year after becoming Princess Kay, the sculpture would often accompany her to a variety of Princess Kay promotional events and dairy princess banquets. After about a year, Bosch felt the butter should be used before it got old.

Christmas baking was the first time the butter was to be used. Upon taking the sculpture out of the freezer and its storage box, Bosch observed that the nose had been flattened, probably due to softening as the sculpture traveled to previous events.

Bosch said that she needed a picture of the sculpture before it was to be cut up because the previous photo wasn’t very good. For the purpose of the photo, reconstruction of the nose was necessary, so “I gave myself a nose job for free! It was the nose I always wanted,” Bosch laughed.

However, before the photo was snapped, a dog had run up to the butter sculpture and bit the reconstructed nose off!

So surgery commenced a second time, and a successful photo was taken with both the butter sculpture and its princess likeness.

True to the dairy industry, Bosch was sporting her “milker scarf” in the photo. She had been milking cows prior to the photo, and is the picture of a true dairy princess.

Bosch estimates that it took about one year to completely use all the butter.

Currently, Bosch is a stay-at-home mother, a free lance writer for the dairy industry, and still does some dairy promotions on a county and regional level with a variety of groups.

The Midwest Dairy Association’s website has put together a list of 25 statements from past princesses detailing what happened to their butter sculptures. Some of the stories are listed below.

The first Princess Kay to have her likeness sculpted in butter was Karen Bracken Geier, in 1964, and was quoted on the website reporting, “I was the first Princess Kay to have her head sculpted in butter, in the freezer department at the Land ‘OLakes Creamery, not at the state fair. Since I was the first, the butter was used on the last day of the state fair.”

The next year’s princess, Mary Ann Titrud Springer, 1965 Princess Kay, reported that, “Mine was the first butter sculpture promotion at the fair. Later that year, it was used at various dairy events, and then broken up.”

The 1974 princess, Juliet Tessmer Garbow, said, “My grandmother chopped it up, piece by piece, to make Christmas cookies for everyone in the community.”

“We planned to use it in the food at my wedding, but I found it displayed with cheese at my reception instead,” the 1983 princess, Lisa Schaffer Coyne reported

Beth Mesenbring-Mastre, the 1990 princess, said, “I kept it for more than 10 years, then displayed it at the 50th Anniversary Banquet for the Princess Kay program.”

The 2000, princess, Bridget Hollermann, reported to the Dairy Association that, “We hosted a ‘Butter head melt-down,’ and served sweet corn. People rolled their ears of corn on my head.”

The annual pageant Princess Kay of the Milky Way began in 1954, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the butter sculptures of the winning Princess Kay and other finalists were introduced and hand-crafted.

The Midwest Dairy Association organizes the competition that takes place every year at the Minnesota State Fair, and initiated the pageant to highlight Minnesota’s claim as the “butter capital of the nation.”

The history of butter sculpture began in the 1800s when frontier women molded and imprinted their homemade butter, according to the Midwest Dairy Association.

Linda Christensen has been the artistic sculptor for the past 34 years, according to the Midwest Dairy Association, and carving the butter sculptures takes six to eight hours.

The name, Princess Kay of the Milky Way, was chosen from more than 10,000 entries in a 1954 contest to name the princess.

For more stories and information on the Princess Kay program, and the butter sculpture legacy, check out the Midwest Dairy Association’s website at www.midwestdairy.com.

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