Speed Reads

nobody does it butter

Artist retires after spending 50 years making butter sculptures at the Minnesota State Fair

Armed with her trusty knife Old Faithful, Linda Christensen has spent the last 50 summers turning 90-pound blocks of butter into sculptures, putting on a show year after year in the Minnesota State Fair's dairy building.

These carvings — called "butter heads" — depict the fair's goodwill ambassador, Princess Kay of the Milky Way, and her royal court. The tradition dates back decades, and since 1972, Christensen has created more than 500 butter heads. She carves them inside a 40-degree booth, with her model sitting down next to her. "As goofy as it is — and it is goofy — it still really fulfills something for me," Christensen told CBS News.

Christensen, 79, said she got the job because the man doing it at the time "couldn't stand the cold" and quit. She's learned lots of tricks over the years, like only using salted butter, as the unsalted kind is gummy and sticks to Old Faithful. Many former princesses come back to visit Christensen in her booth and let her know they saved their butter head by sticking it in a freezer. 

The 40-degree booth is now too chilly for Christensen, making it hard for her to carve the butter heads. She decided to make 2021 her final year, and passed her butter knife on to the next sculptor, artist Gerry Kulzer. Christensen told CBS News she feels "mixed emotions" about retiring. "I have looked forward to this every year for the last 50 years," she said, "but on the other hand, I've made it 50 years. That's something to celebrate."