A Historical New Sculpture

July 21, 2022
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Famously known across the state, the Butter Cow is a sight to see at the Iowa State Fair. Visitors wait in line to admire the detailed sculpture hand-crafted each year. As someone who has lived in Des Moines his entire life, growing up only a few blocks from the Fairgrounds, BJ Baker is helping make this significant Iowa State Fair icon more permanent by honoring one of its long-standing creators.

The Butter Cow made its Iowa State Fair debut in 1911. Starting in 1960, Norma “Duffy” Lyon sculpted the Butter Cow for 46 years. As a talented artist, she also created a fiberglass cow-calf sculpture to represent Iowa’s dairy farming roots in 1991. On display in Toledo, Iowa, it was damaged in the derecho of 2020. Iowa State University recognized alumna Duffy’s incredible legacy and wanted to replicate her cow-calf sculpture to display on campus.

This new statue is cast in bronze to withstand weathering, ensuring it will be preserved for decades to come. With ISU’s casting mold, two additional bronze sculptures were created — one to replace the damaged statue in Toledo and one for the Iowa State Fair. BJ Baker, an Iowa State Fair enthusiast, graciously donated $50,000 to fund the project and bring the statue to the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Placed yesterday morning, the sculpture, titled “Duffy’s Cow & Calf,” is displayed outside the Agriculture Building for all Fairgoers to enjoy. “I’ve lived in Des Moines all my life and I felt it was appropriate to support the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and be part of the Butter Cow legacy,” said BJ.   

BJ is the chairmen of Baker Group, a Des Moines based construction company that specializes in mechanical, electrical and plumbing contracting. As members of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s 1854 Society, BJ and his wife, Tiffany, have been actively involved with the Foundation for over a decade and see the Iowa State Fair as an iconic event for all Iowans. As a regular Fairgoer, some of BJ’s favorite Fair foods he can’t leave without eating are gyros, guinea grinders and of course, corndogs.

You also can find him and Tiffany enjoying the free entertainment as they catch up with old friends. “It’s a reunion of all the people in your life,” said BJ. “Whether it’s from school, work or business — I find those people I’ve lost contact with and reconnect.” BJ strongly believes the Iowa State Fair is filled with traditions for many people, families, businesses and Iowa as a whole. “I know that any donation to the Blue Ribbon Foundation will be put to good use on new projects, attractions, renovations or an amazing Butter Cow sculpture,” said BJ.

Be sure to add “Duffy’s Cow & Calf” to your ‘must-see’ list at the Iowa State Fair to celebrate the Butter Cow and honor Duffy Lyon’s legacy.

Thank you, BJ Baker, for supporting the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation.