Saturday, September 3, 2011

Minnesota State Fair-Heads of Butter

The Minnesota State Fair can be a little difficult to explain to non-natives.  It's big, gaudy, exhausting and something you simply have to attend at least ever few years.

Like most such events it got its start back in the mid 1800s as an Agricultural Fair.  Basically the kind of event you would attend to get recognition for growing some nice melons.  Judging from the slightly risque apparel of its now mostly urban attendees, that is still true.

As a Minnesota Ex-Pat my attendance requirements are slightly loosened, but I check in every couple of years, and still enjoy the older Agricultural roots of the Fair.  True, Machinery Hill has fewer combines and tractors every year, but there are still some things worth seeing.

Butterheads for instance.
Here's the deal.  Local farming communities select "Dairy Princesses".  The top dozen get to go to the Fair, and one of them gets to be "Princess Kay of the Milky Way".  All twelve are commemorated by having their likenesses carved in a big block of butter, which is kept on display for the run of the fair.  It is carved live, in a refrigerated booth as seen above. 

The young ladies get to keep the butterheads, and I guess some of them have a big corn feed to thank their supporters.  I have to admit, the concept of carving up the butterhead and eating it seems like some sort of pagan sacrificial rite, but farm folks do tend to be practical.

As an aside I should mention that a few years back during my Robot Carnie days we did exhibition fights at the Minnesota Fair.  A couple of special butterheads were made of a pair of local news personalities.  We were supposed to mount these on dueling robots and film it as gag footage for the station.

These things melt fast in August heat, so we only got them a few minutes before show time.  I was assigned the tricky task of mounting them on the robots, and was appalled to discover that these particular butterheads were not, in point of fact, solid butter.  No, they had been built around a cantaloupe.  This of course was frozen into an impenetrable ice ball that could not be skewered or drilled into with available equipment.

We ended up wiring them on rather precariously, and they slid off unceremoniously right away. 

Now I don't want to imply anything about the actual Dairy Princess butterheads.  I mean, this looks pretty official to me:
Probably the ones made for the TV folks were cheap knockoffs done when the master butter sculptor  had an odd minute.

Butter, and related saturated fats, are a recurring theme of the Fair.  Tune in next time when  the Largest Pig in Minnesota goes Missing in Action

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