If you’ve never been to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, you’ve missed out on years’ worth of dairy dioramas. Each January, the agriculture industry piles into Harrisburg for the farm show, and since 1991, each show has featured a 1,000-pound butter sculpture designed to portray the show’s annual theme.
In honor of this year’s PA Farm Show, curiosity got the, um, butter of us as we laid out a spread of the top butter sculptures from over the years. Do you agree with our cream of the crop, or do our picks make you salty?
This year, Pennsylvania’s 1,000-pound butter sculpture depicted Pennsylvanians standing around a kitchen table in a diorama titled “A Table for All: Pennsylvania Dairy Connects Communities.” The sculpture, which was created by Jim Victor and Marie Pelton of Conshohocken, is a tribute to the 2024 Farm Show’s Connecting Our Communities theme, and pays homage to the 20th anniversary of PA Preferred, which is the state’s brand for locally-made agricultural products.
The sculptors tasked with crafting the 2007 butter sculpture gave a nod to one of the country’s founding fathers with the creation of the Farm Show’s pasteurized effigy in 2007. The sculpture, which depicts Ben Franklin and the Liberty Bell, seems an obvious choice for a commonwealth-inspired mass of margarine.
The 101st Pennsylvania Farm Show featured a nod to the history of environmental stewardship by dairy farmers. That year’s sculpture displayed a farm landscape at a miniature scale, with a barn, trees, hay bales and a waterfall. You can thank Land O’Lakes for this landscape.
The Farm Show’s 2020 butter sculpture paid homage to some of Pennsylvania’s most beloved sports mascots, including Swoop, Steely McBeam and Gritty. As Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said at the time, the statue was designed to “delight all who see it,” and he was right in adding that the 2020 edition of the statue demonstrated that “anyone can be a fan of dairy” – regardless of whether your favorite team is in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.
In a tribute to the late Milton Hershey, the 2004 sculpture came with a sweet twist. Standing between two cows with commonwealth-centric chocolate spots, a chocolate version of Hershey himself took center stage in a sculpture by Victor. This may be the closest you’ll see to a real-life chocolate milkshake.
In arguably the most intricate architectural design of any butter sculpture, the new millennium brought in Edward Shank’s butter sculpture – a depiction of two children riding carousel horses. The photo quality may not be as smooth as today, but this ride deserves a merry-go-round of applause.
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