State of the state fairs: Iowa becomes latest to pull plug

Butter Cow
Sarah Pratt, the official cow sculptor for the Iowa State Fair, will have extra time on her hands this summer after the fair's cancellation. Pratt typically uses 1,400 pounds of recycled butter for the cow and accessories. (Associated Press)

DES MOINES, Iowa — State fairs continue to fall victim to the novel coronavirus, with the Iowa State Fair throwing in the towel today over concern about thousands of people gathered during a time of physical distancing.
The state fair voted 11-2 to cancel the fair for the first time since World War II. The fair, which typically has an 11-day run in mid-August, draws more than 1 million visitors.
Its claim to fame is a butter sculpture of a cow, a feat that started in 1911. Illinois also touts a butter cow, but the udder truth is that Illinois’ version is a mere 500 pounds, compared with the 600-pounder that rules the Hawkeye Milking Parlor.

The Ohio State Fair was the first to show off a sculpted cow, in 1903.

Spoiler alert: The butter cows aren’t solid butter. Usually, their cores are composed of wood, wire and steel mesh frames. They then are layered with about 600 pounds of recycled butter. An actual dairy cow typically weighs about 1,000 pounds. The state fair estimates that is enough butter to slather over 19,200 slices of toast.

Sarah Pratt, the official cow sculptor for the Iowa State Fair, typically uses 1,400 pounds of recycled butter for the overall display of the cow and various accessories, as well as human figures sometimes used.

Anyone concerned about waste should fear not. Most of the butter is reused from year to year, and some of it is up to a decade old, according to The Associated Press.

Another of the Hawkeye State Fair’s signatures is its soapbox, where politicians take to a hay stage to boost their campaigns.
The Minnesota State Fair was the first in the Upper Midwest to pull the plug, while the Wisconsin and Indiana state fairs since have announced that they, too, would not open the animal barns and midway this year.
According to AGDaily, which is monitoring the fairs’ futures in a list that is a little behind on updating,  the annual gatherings have been canceled in California and North Dakota.
Kansas is listed as moving forward, as is Indiana, which has since nixed the statewide gathering. Missouri is listed as pending, as is Illinois, although Gov. J.B. Pritzker the other day that it is “highly unlikely” that the annual state fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin would take place this summer.
Fairs still holding out hope and report that they are moving forward appear to be those later in the season, such as in Nebraska, where it is scheduled for Aug. 28-Sept. 7; Michigan, set for Sept. 3-7, and Virginia, Sept. 25-Oct. 4.