At Ohio State Fair, butter brings Apollo 11's moonmen to life

For over a century, the Ohio State Fair has featured its signature sculpture of a cow and calf.

But this year? Someone had a butter idea.

Scott Higgins, CEO of the American Dairy Association Mideast, on Tuesday unveiled a group of themed sculptures celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

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The Dairy Products Building at the state fairgrounds houses a life-size depiction of Neil Armstrong, a native of Wapakoneta, saluting the American flag he planted on the moon. Also on hand: the other Apollo 11 moonmen: Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, sitting next to a butter cow (it had a cattle ID tag with an embossed "11") and a calf (with Apollo ear tag).

“Those who remember the moon landing often recall exactly where they were and how they felt, and the 50th anniversary is the perfect time to pay tribute to this amazing event and share that excitement with a new generation,” Jenny Hubble, senior vice president of communications for the American Dairy Association Mideast, said in a statement. “Ohio also has a special connection to that day, as one of our own took the first-ever steps on the surface of the moon.”

Five artists "churned out" the statues through 500 hours of craftsmanship. The creamy smooth works will debut on Wednesday at the fair's opening.

Artists wear nitrate gloves to prevent the butter from breaking down, and use sculpting tools similar to those used for clay pottery, including metal chisels and scrapers, to mold the sculptures.

Most of the work is done by hand, using 2,200 pounds of spoiled butter that is donated by the Dairy Farmers of America and recycled after use to make biodiesel, animal feed, tires and cosmetics, according to a press release by the American Dairy Association Mideast. It began adding themed sculptures to accompany the cow and calf in the 1960s.

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"This year’s out-of-this-world display is expected to attract more than 500,000 fairgoers to the Dairy Products Building, where they can also learn about Ohio’s dairy farmers and enjoy Ohio-produced dairy foods including ice cream, milkshakes, cheese sandwiches and milk," the group said.