Work on New York State Fair's butter sculpture begins. Here's how it's done

·2 min read

More than 800 pounds of butter has arrived at the New York State Fairgrounds outside of Syracuse, as sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton prepare to transform it into a new masterpiece.

It's part of a tradition at the New York State Fair. The 54th annual sculpture unveiling, presented by the American Dairy Association, will be held Tuesday, Aug. 23, the day before the fair officially opens.

This is a busy time of year for Victor and Pelton. This week the Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based pair will work for 10 days straight assembling the scaffolding constructed through Victor's carpentry and Pelton's welding and sculpting the butter around it.

"It can get very cold," Pelton said, explaining that they start sculpting at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit to better move the butter, then 50 degrees as the sculpture gets more detailed. During the fair, temperatures in the "butter booth" get as low as 30 degrees.

"You have to dress appropriately, for sure," Pelton said. "The air conditioning is all coming from up above and blowing down on your neck and shoulders."

Pelton and Victor won't get a chance to experience the fair themselves. The pair — whose work includes not just butter but also chocolate, cheese and fruit and vegetable sculptures — will next head to Ohio to construct a 700-pound cheese sculpture for the Great Geauga County Fair's bicentennial, and then to West Springfield, Massachusetts, to construct a butter sculpture for the Eastern States Exposition.

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"Jim and I do unique sculptures for every single event," Pelton said. "Never a repeat sculpture."

The butter used has been designated not for retail sale and is donated from Batavia-based O-AT-KA Milk. After the fair it will be sent to Noblehurst Farms farm in Genesee County, where it will be recycled in a food-waste digester.

Both Victor and Pelton look forward to fair-goers seeing their latest design.

"I think there's something really unique and kind of magical working with butter materials," Pelton said. "People really enjoy it when they see it."

H. Rose Schneider covers public safety, breaking and trending news for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Rose at

This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Work on butter sculpture at New York State Fair in Syracuse begins