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Ohio State Fair Retells 'A Christmas Story' With... Butter?

State fairs are a lot about tradition: there's the food, the music, the competitions and the rides. And at the Ohio State Fair, there's a tradition that honors other traditions. This year's butter cow sculpture is paying tribute to a movie with deep Ohio connections.

Jenny Hubble with the American Dairy Association Mideast says this year marks the 35th anniversary of A Christmas Story, the 1983 holiday flick filmed in Cleveland. 

"We have the famous leg lamp. We have Ralphie in his bunny suit that Aunt Clara gave him. There is his little brother Randy in the snow suit where he can't put his arms down." Hubble says the scene were Flick was "triple dog dared" to put his tongue on a frozen flagpole is included, with an assist from the butter calf.

Artists included lead sculptors Paul Brooke and Alex Balz of Cincinnati; Tammy Buerk of West Chester, OH; Erin Swearingen of Columbus and Matt Davidson, a dairy farmer from Sidney, OH.

Hubble says butter has been sculpted at the Ohio State Fair since the early 1900s. She says the butter cow and butter calf were added annually in the 1920s.

This year, sculptors used 2,200 pounds of butter for the display in the Dairy Products Building. Hubble says the butter was past the expiration date and wasn't going to be sold.

After the fair is done, the butter is recycled. "We work with a company that a lot of fast food restaurants work with to recycle their cooking oil," she explains. "The butter is refined into a product that can then be used in animal feeds, cosmetics, tires, and fuel." 

In the meantime, the butter sculptures are on display in a walk-in cooler with a constant temperature of 46° Fahrenheit. The cooler also has the blue-ribbon cheeses from the fair's cheese contest.

The Ohio State Fair runs until August 5 in Columbus.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio in markets including Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.