A Beautiful Day on the Fairgrounds

 Our office is located in the Earth Building which has many windows and beautiful landscaping and is quite enjoyable on days like today. This morning I was able to get some fresh air outside as I helped assemble some of the decorations for the Corndog Kickoff. As I was working I saw several walkers powering up the steep hill between our office and the Anderson Erikson Stage. I also spent some time enjoying the Fairgrounds this past weekend. My fiance and I took our engagement pictures here Sunday afternoon. My Dad got a cool picture of us standing under the sky glider with the Grandstand and Fairgrounds in the background. If  you happen to be looking for a good place to take pictures I strongly suggest coming out to the Fair!

This week continues another round of Butter Cow facts!

Duffy Lyons became the apprentice to sculptor Frank Earl Dutts in 1959. Just one year later she replaced Dutts to become the fourth Fair sculptor and the first female Fair sculptor. Duffy preferred to sculpt more modern cows that were long and thin opposed to short and round. She loved sculpting cows but did not enjoy sculpting calves as much. She sketched out a picture of every cow prior to building its frame and would begin sculpting at 6 a.m. each morning. Duffy happened to be 8 months pregnant when she sculpted her first cow for the Fair in 1960. The sculpture was of a Jersey cow, as she was most familiar with this breed from spending time on the Lyon’s farm. Since then, each year has featured one of six major dairy breeds: Jersey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Holstein, Guernsey and Milking Shorthorn.

      If the temperature in the cooler is not cool enough, the sculptures have a tendency to lose their shape. Three of Duffy’s Butter Cows have lost parts of their bottom sides. Luckily Duffy and her team are talented enough to rebuild the udders and adjust the cooler temperature. Usually Duffy has about two or three assistants each year helping her construct the cow and companion sculpture. At the age of 13 current sculptor Sarah Pratt began an apprentice with Duffy constructing the Butter Cow. Sarah took over the as the Fair sculptor in 2006.



What I have learned so far…

I started my internship with the Blue Ribbon Foundation in March. I have been working on press releases, newsletter articles, and many other projects to get ready for the 2011 Iowa State Fair. I have improved my writing and design skills by working for the Foundation.

One thing that I have learned always sticks out in my mind . . .  People are truly passionate about the Iowa State Fair. I have seen this passion first hand with the Iowan of the Day program and the Corndog Kickoff.

People are willing to take time out of their busy lives to fill out a nomination form for the Iowan of the Day program. They are passionate about honoring outstanding volunteers across the state. I have received amazing nominations for people who have made their community a better place to live. Most of the nominees volunteer hundreds of hours without any recognition at all. The Blue Ribbon Foundation gives ten of those volunteers the opportunity to have VIP treatment during the great Iowa State Fair.

I have been working for the past few months on auction donations for the Corndog Kickoff. As of today, there have been 298 auction donors for the 2011 Corndog Kickoff.  The money raised from the silent and live auction will go to renovations and improvements to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. New for this year’s Fair is the remodel of Expo Hill. The landscape of Expo Hill now features renewable energy technologies including solar power lighting, solar cooled benches and solar powered Wi-Fi benches. There have also been electrical updates in the Sheep Barn and a new fiber optic network. These donors are passionate about maintaining the Fairgrounds.

Just recently I had a phone call from an auction donor. We discussed her donation and the Corndog Kickoff in general. She went on to describe how much she loved the Iowa State Fair. Over the years, she had been to other State Fairs but I could hear the passion in her voice when she spoke about the Iowa State Fair. To her, our Fair was the best.  I think many would agree that nothing compares.

I also had the opportunity to spend last Friday at the Downtown Des Moines Arts Festival. As I worked on the “butter cow masks” with the children, I would ask if they had ever been to the Iowa State Fair. Young kids were even passionate about telling me their favorite part of the Fair, especially their favorite food. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter the age or involvement, Iowans are passionate about their Fair.


This week’s Butter Cow facts will be in honor of Norma Duffield Stong Lyon, known by many as “Duffy.” The beloved “butter cow lady” passed this weekend. Our thoughts are with the family.

Duffy graduated from Iowa State College with a degree in animal science where she also met her husband, Joe Lyon. They settled in Toledo, Iowa, where they raised their nine children.

Duffy Lyon was the fourth out of five Butter Cow sculptors for the Iowa State Fair. Out of the 100 years of the Butter Cow, Duffy made 46 of them. She began sculpting for the Fair in 1960 and retired in 2006, passing the torch on to Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines.


Duffy Lyon's first Iowa State Fair Butter Cow 1960

Nothing Compares to the Grandstand Line-up at the 2011 ISF!

For the past half an hour or so I have been looking up the top songs of the artists that will be gracing us with their presence at the Grandstand for the Fair this year. I am working on a music playlist for the Corndog Kickoff that is coming up in a few weeks and after looking at all of the concert material it is getting me excited!

I personally have never been to a show at the Grandstand, crazy I know! I have been to many shows on the free stages, though, which are great. I think it would be so fun to enjoy a show at the Grandstand. First of all, it is historic and so many great artists have performed there over the years. Second, it’s outdoors!

With Jason Aldean, Sugerland, Train and Janet Jackson all coming this year I wouldn’t want to miss the Fair! If you aren’t planning on going to a show at the Grandstand make sure to at least check out all of the great free shows throughout the 11 days. The Band Perry, The Nadas, Tenth Avenue North, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Brice and many more!

We look forward to seeing you! 47 days!


Caution: Falling Butter

Although there is a wire frame that acts as the foundation of the Butter Cow, the wire does not support the ears. Therefore, they are often at risk of falling off if not sculpted well.

Good thing we have such a talented sculptress!

Last night we enjoyed a potluck reception for Kickoff volunteers. We appreciate all of the people who help make this big event happen! Kickoff tickets are beginning to be mailed, so expect yours soon! Make sure to place orders for any additional tickets at a lower price before June 30th.

Stay tuned next week to learn about the woman behind the butter.


If you haven’t heard already…

Ten outstanding volunteers are needed at the 2011 Iowa State Fair to be honored as the Iowans of the Day!

Please check your local post offices, libraries, newspapers, radio stations, television stations, county fairgrounds, volunteer organizations, main street offices, chamber of commerce, extension offices, or even ask your local Legislator for information about the 2011 Iowan of the Day program.

Since 1997, the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products have come together in search of Iowans to recognize at each year’s Iowa State Fair. We look for shining stars across the state who personify the greatness of Iowa with a strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others, and an exceptional sense of Iowa pride.

Every year, ten nominees are named Iowan of the Day, receiving a special day of VIP treatment at the Fair. As Iowan of the Day, winners receive an introduction on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage, four Grandstand show tickets for their day, privilege to use the Iowan of the Day golf cart, VIP parking, accommodations at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott hotel, $200 cash and one-year subscriptions to The Iowan & Iowa Gardening magazines.

Download a nomination form here. Forms can also be found at your local post office or can be requested by calling 515-262-3111 ext. 678 or 1-800-450-3732. Nominate your shining star by July 1, 2011.

TEN days left to turn in your nominations to honor TEN deserving Iowans at the 2011 Iowa State Fair. (Only 50 days until the Fair!)

Always remember, Iowa is an amazing place to live and it’s the people who make it one of a kind!


Week 2 of Butter Cow Facts

What kind of butter is used to make the Butter Cow?

Is it cultured?



Turns out, the Butter Cow uses low moisture, pure cream butter from our very own home state, Iowa. In order for it to be the best quality for sculpting, the butter is kept in a cooler at 40 degrees.

The buttery figurine requires a little more than just butter. A metal wire and mesh steel frame is used as the foundation for the sculpture. Occasionally, food coloring is used to color the butter and specific parts of the secondary sculpture. Red and blue food coloring were used for the American flag in the 2008 Shawn Johnson sculpture.