Debate Churns Over Proposed Jackson Butter Sculpture at Iowa State Fair

Michael Jackson may be memorialized in wax at Madame Tussaud's, but it's not yet clarified whether he'll get butter treatment at the Iowa State Fair.

The debate over how to honor the late King of Pop is churning for Iowa fairgoers who will vote on whether to include Jackson's image as part of the fair's 2009 display of celebrated butter sculptures.

On June 30, fair organizers announced plans to honor the deceased singer's musical feats through a butter sculpture of Jackson to appear alongside a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's walk on moon – a recognition of Jackson's famous "moonwalk" dance step.

But after tempers began bubble, organizers decided to cut the fat and feature Jackson's buttery image in a "small side portion" of the moonwalk sculpture. They said in a second press release issued on the same day that Jackson — whose personal reputation is controversial — will not be honored for his character, but for "recognizing his piece of Iowa State Fair history."

That still didn't satisfy everyone's taste, and after hundreds of complaints, fair officials opted to let the public vote on whether Jackson should win a coveted spot in the buttery line-up.

"People don't believe that he's representative of Iowa and a lot of fairgoers are under the impression that we typically sculpt Iowans," fair marketing director Lori Chappell told She said that in past years artists have sculpted an array of famous figures including Harry Potter, Tiger Woods and Jackson's idol, Elvis.

In a statement released Wednesday, Iowa State Fair CEO Gary Slater said a one-week online poll will be conducted at beginning Thursday. Final results will be released Friday, July 17. The fair is being held Aug. 13-23 near Des Moines.

The Iowa State Fair is a premier annual event in the state, known to attract presidential candidates as well as fans of deep-fried Twinkies. Its previous butter sculptures — notably an image of the Last Supper featuring a stick of butter carved into the butter table — have also created a stir.

As to the reaction to a potential Jackson's sculpture, Slater said, "The overwhelming response is a testament to how important the Iowa State Fair is to Iowans and to the iconic nature of Iowa's butter cow."

"However, the ongoing discussion has created a lot of, well, "churn,'" Slater said."Since everyone has an opinion about the sculpture, we've decided to put it to a vote and let fairgoers decide."

Jackson first performed on the Iowa State Fair Grandstand stage in Des Moines on August 29, 1971, as a member of the Jackson Five. Alongside his brothers, Jackson performed before 17,000 fans.

Chappell said the vote is open to all potential fairgoers, though the online poll will require respondents to list their zip codes.