The 2013 butter display at the Ohio State Fair celebrates the 50th anniversary of the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir and pays tribute to its founder, Glenville D. Thomas.
One Ohio State Fair tradition salutes another as the iconic butter cow and calf share their new display case with a heroic butter bust of Thomas and 60 choir members, sculpted in butter to represent the thousands of youth who were members of the choir throughout the last five decades. The display also includes a piano and accompanist, all sculpted from butter.
The All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir was founded in 1963 by Thomas, a music educator from Zanesville, Ohio, to give high school vocalists the opportunity to share a musical experience similar to that of the All-Ohio State Fair Band. Under the leadership of Thomas, the choir, which at one point boasted more than 300 members, served as an ambassador for the State of Ohio.
After performing for hundreds of thousands of Ohio State Fair visitors each summer, Thomas led the choir in annual European singing tours and many national parades. In 1975, the All-Ohio State Fair Youth choir marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade, making them the first known marching choir. The choir was asked to return in 1978, 1981, and 1988 for repeat performances.
The group was also the first-ever choir to sing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1975 which included a pre-show performance atop the World Trade Center. Thomas and the choir also performed at the New York World’s Fair, appeared on several national and local TV and radio programs, and sang for President Nixon at the White House.
Thomas’ passion for music coupled with his energetic personality made an impact on the lives he touched. He instilled confidence in the more than 8,000 students he directed, creating many lifelong friendships and memories among them.
Today, the choir consists of 200 youth from most of Ohio’s 88 counties and performs several times a day throughout the Ohio State Fair.
The display’s theme, which is always the best kept secret at the Ohio State Fair, was unveiled today at noon. The 2013 butter sculptures share the cooler with the life-size butter cow and calf. Historically, the cow looks the same from year to year, but the 2013 cow is milking this experience for all it’s worth.
For the first time decades, she has moo-ved into a bigger and better home inside the Dairy Products Building. The new, energy-efficient cooler is 36 feet long by 11 feet wide, and also houses Ohio’s Blue Ribbon Cheeses from the Ohio State Fair cheese contest. The refrigerated display case is now located along the south side of the building, creating more space for fair visitors to move throughout the Dairy Products Building.
On behalf of Ohio’s dairy farmers, the American Dairy Association Mideast commissions a group of three Cincinnati-based technical sculptors engaged primarily in the toy industry to create the butter masterpiece. This year, the trio enlisted the help of three other artists, including a dairy farmer from Shelby County and two interns from Ohio State. Crafted from approximately 2,000 pounds of butter, donated in part by Dairy Farmers of America, the display was completed in 543 hours, which includes 378 hours of actual sculpting.
The sculptors began by building wooden and steel frames to support the weight of the butter. From 55-pound blocks, the butter is sliced into manageable loaves and is layered to cover the frames. After many hours of molding and smoothing the butter in a 46-degree cooler, each sculpture begins to take shape. Fine details are added last.
Each year, the American Dairy Association Mideast selects an icon or theme to feature in butter that is non-political, non-controversial and reflects optimism and broad audience-appeal. The butter display at the Ohio State Fair attracts more than 500,000 visitors each summer and has reflected positive ideals and cultural trends in Ohio for more than 50 years, with several exhibits gaining national media attention with themes that have universal appeal.
The butter display can be found in the newly updated Dairy Products Building at the Ohio Expo Center, home of the Ohio State Fair. The Dairy Products Building is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and offers a variety of Ohio-produced dairy foods including ice cream, traditional milkshakes, cheese sandwiches and milk.