Nothing says Minnesota State Fair quite like the Butterheads sculptures of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
For 50 years, audiences have watched Linda Christensen work her butter magic with that year’s Princess Kay. She worked in a rotating glass cooler in which the temperature was 40 degrees. She and the princesses were wearing their heavy winter clothes.
Christensen retired in 2021 after spending countless hours in that cooler, during which she sculpted 41,500 pounds of butter featuring more than 550 young women involved in dairy farming.
Now, Christensen is reliving her fairground memories in her new book “Princess Kay & Me: Stories About the Minnesota Butterheads and Much More” (Kirk House Publishers, $18.95).
Some of the people who crowded around Christensen’s cooler at the Fair probably didn’t know that she had a degree in fine arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a master of arts in theology from the University of Saint Catherine. She was an art teacher, calligrapher, and designer and marketer of her own line of greeting cards.
Christensen’s anecdotes about his butter sculpture are charming, sometimes amusing, such as when a finished sculpture fell on one’s face when the stand broke. In her history of butter carving, she points out that Tibetan monks for centuries created intricate mandalas with brightly colored yak butter as part of religious ceremonies.
In Minnesota, the earliest examples of “decorative butter” intended to promote the dairy industry were the work of farmwives in the mid-1800s. “They exhibited their wares at county fair competitions, and the practice of molding or the impression of their butter was born out of these contests,” she wrote.
STARTING 2021: After half a century, the Minnesota State Fair butter sculptor is putting the finishing touches on her latest work of art.
Christensen had a natural connection to the princesses as she grew up on a farm like them. One of its interesting chapters deals with the encounter between the rural and the urban at the Fair.
For those who love the Great Minnesota Get-Together, this book would be a comforting read in the winter, when it seems August and the fair will never come.
THESE DOGS ARE ALLOWED AT THE FAIR
What’s more fun at the Fair than reading to a friendly therapy dog? It’s the treat for fairgoing kids on Wednesday, August 31, from 9 a.m. to noon, when Diane Prange brings her dogs Nevsky and Cooper to the Pet Pavilions on Underwood Street for Read to a Breed, an event where youngsters read to Prange’s dogs, who star in her goofy and very fun new picture book “A Minnesota State Fairy Tail” (Book Baby, $19.95).
Prange, who lives in Minneapolis, owns North Star Therapy Dogs. She has owned and trained several Siberian Husky therapy dogs, all of which are registered with Pet Partners, the nation’s premier therapy animal organization. The illustrations by St. Paul-based artist Faryn Hughes are filled with energy that fuels the story.
“A Minnesota State Fairy Tail” is an exuberant play of five dogs prancing, wiggling, hopping and wiggling as they explore the fairgrounds. They ride the giant Ferris wheel and try the oversized slide. Dressed as fairground goers with sunglasses and hats, they find the Gigantic Sing-together and start their own band, The Rolling Bones. In the Dairy Building, two of them – OH NO – take bites of Princess Kay Butterhead. And when they arrive at Read to a Breed, the human children cheer and welcome them.
The book is available on local retailer Good Things’ website, shopgoodthings.com.
ABC and the Other Letters take center stage at The Alphabet Forest, a shady little corner of Baldwin Park where young readers can play alphabet games, create a word banner, learn facts about fair eating doing the Minnesota agriculture crossword puzzle, writing poems, and listening to local Blue Ribbon authors read daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Featured authors and illustrators include Catherine Thimmesh, Artika R. Tyner, Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, Daniel Bernstrom, Cheryl Blackford, Tracy Nelson Maurer, Lindsey McDivitt, Thomas Peacock, Mark Ceilley and Rachel Smoka-Richardson, Dawn Quigley. Sarah Warren and Megan Maynor.
The forest was created in 2010 by artist Debra Frasier, who was artist-in-residence and was intrigued by the variety of colorful lettering on the fair’s buildings and rides. This led to his book “A Fabulous Fair Alphabet”, the basis of Forest’s first year.
Frasier created the forest with little more than his imagination, used furniture and the enthusiasm of his volunteers. Nobody expected it to last more than a year, but children and parents always find the place where everyone loves letters.