Winning the crown would only be icing on the cake

Olmsted County Dairy Princess Ellen Sheehan, of rural Rochester, is a Princess Kay finalist.

Princess Kay of the Milky Wayfinalist Ellen Sheehanknows one thing. Win, lose or draw, the Rochester farm girl will get the royal treatment: Having her likeness carved and molded into a 90-pound block of butter.

"I'm very excited for the coronation and finding out who Princess Kay is," said Sheehan, a University of Minnesota Twin Cities sophomore and former Olmsted County Dairy Princess."But I'm so excited to get my head carved in butter."

By the time you read this, a newly crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way will begin her reign today by sitting in a butter booth, the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair,having her features coaxed out of a block of Grade A butter.

The sculpting will continue throughout the fair, a Princess Way participant for each day of the 12-day fair. Each will take an all-day turn in the butter booth in the Dairy Building on the corner of Judson Avenue and Underwood Street, right by the Haunted House. It will take about six hoursto complete a sculpture.

They will be sculpted by artist Linda Christensen, who will begin her 44th year creating butter sculptures. The new Princess Kay and 11 finalists will be wrapped in mittens, boots, snow pants and a new coat provided by the American Dairy Association of Minnesota to protect them from the 40-degree chill inside the butter booth.


Christensen has carved more than 485 butter sculptures, among the most prominent being David Letterman, former Minnesota First Lady Mary Pawlentyand Big Bird.

According to the Midwest Dairy Association fact sheet, butter sculptures were featured at the Minnesota State Fair from 1898 through 1927. In 1967, the dairy association joined the art form with the Princess Way contest, a bid for immortality made from butter.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,"said Sheehan, who was 2 when she showed her first calf at the Olmsted County Fair and regards cows as no different than cats and dogs except more vital to our survival. "Once you're chosen as a Princess Kay finalist, you can't be a diary princess again, so it's a huge highlight."

Sheehan, the daughter of Jeromeand Karen Sheehan, says room has already been created in her family's freezer to hold and preserve her butter head. Eventually, she plans to donate her buttery likeness to charity.

So even if she isn't crowned Princess Kay, Sheehan figures she will be getting more than a consolation prize.

"No matter what happens, I will be taking home 90 pounds of butter,and it will be my head sculpted in butter," she said.

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