Reporting Rachel Slavik
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) — There is one state fair staple that ranks right up there with the food. Most visitors will make a trip to the Dairy Barn this year to watch the butter head sculptures take shape.
For years, Linda Christensen has carved the faces of the Princess Kay finalists into a 90-pound block of butter.
In the butter business, you can’t help but reflect on history.
“In the mid-1920s my grandfather started a tradition and started a family dairy farm west of New Ulm,” said Paul Fritsche. “She’s been carving butter for 40 years.”
So with Linda Christensen back in town, many in the dairy industry are preparing to once again see history in the making.
“These butter sculptures to us represent generations of hard work and dediction,” said former Princess Kay Sara Schmidt.
This year’s Minnesota State Fair marks Linda’s 40th anniversary as butter sculptor for the Princess Kay finalists.
“I cannot believe that it was 40 years ago that I walked into the booth for the first time,” Christensen said.
She said she still remembers that first day like it was yesterday.
“When I walked in my first morning at the first fair I suddenly had this attack of nerves, stage fright and am I going to be able to do it,” she said.
And 450 sculptures later, Christensen has developed a unique understanding of her canvas.
“I discovered you cannot freeze butter and sculpt it because it starts to fall apart in layers as it defrosts,” she said.
Like any accomplished artist, she has run into her fair share of challenges.
“I turned it to the princess to show her and at that moment the stand came loose from the old floor on it’s old thing and it went right over onto its face,” Christensen recalled. “Then there was the year of the big hair when they had those high swept bangs and i actually had to take some butter here and put it there.”
For the 12 girls that sit for hours in the revolving cooler, she churns out an end result that is always perfection.
“I don’t even know if she realizes how much these mean to us,” said Schmidt.
It’s a trophy so special that few princesses will part with theirs.
“I think there’s hundreds if not thousands of princesses around the world, but for us as dairy princesses, it’s truly special to have a butter head,” Schmidt said.
It is an industry that relies on tradition. Linda has carved out an art form that goes far beyond the state fair.
“Every princess tells me she remembers seeing me in that booth doing this since she was a little girl,” Christensen said.
“I’m sure there are many mothers, aunts and uncles and grandmas who when they open their freezer think of you,” said Schmidt.
Christensen has lived in California for the last eight years but makes a point of coming back home for the state fair every year. She’ll be sculpting the butter heads throughout the fair in the dairy building.