Kansas State Fair memorializes its state animal — a buffalo — with a 700-pound butter sculpture

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News

Having grown up in Iowa, this year's Kansas State Fair butter sculptor is familiar with cows. But when the staff told her she had to sculpt a buffalo, she had to do some research. 

Because of size and butter poundage limitations, Sarah Pratt decided to sculpt a female bison — a cow — from the 700 pounds of butter she will use. 

"If I have leftover butter, I will make a calf or some sunflowers," she said. 

And because Ike the buffalo became the fair's mascot last year, Pratt is naming her buttered buffalo Mamie (named after Mamie Eisenhower, former Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower's wife).

Pratt, who teaches school by day, lives in West Des Moines with her husband and three children, all of whom help her out with sculpting - from the Kansas State Fair to fairs in Iowa or Illinois. 

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Tom Doyle helps his daughter Sarah Pratt with the butter sculpture of a Kansas buffalo on the first day of the Kansas State Fair.

When Pratt was 14, she went to work at a friend's dairy farm. She soon realized that the only job she loved to do was sculpt with butter. The sculptor, who lived on the farm and who Pratt apprenticed with, was the Kansas State Fair's first butter sculptor, Norma Duffield “Duffy” Lyons. Pratt worked under Lyons’ tutelage for more than a decade.

Now Pratt can't stay away from butter — and sculpting. 

She also enjoys the research. This winter, she spent hours watching buffalo documentaries and bought a toy buffalo at an antique mall for inspiration. 

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"I decided to represent the buffalo after the shedding of the winter fur," she said. 

Pratt, who brought along her father Tom Doyle to help her, said she enjoys all state fairs.

"Each one has their own character," she said. "Here you have bierocks, apple dumplings and chicken noodle soup."

Pratt said working in the 36-degree cooler is always a labor of love. But this year is extra-special, she said.

"Working on the state animal (the buffalo) is a pretty amazing thing," she said. "It's an amazing and majestic animal."