Changing China

Giant on the move

Iowan butter tribute for Olympian Johnson

July 4, 2008

Johnson competes on the balance beam at the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Championships in BostonWhile a Michael Jordan sculpture stands majestically outside Chicago’s United Center and a similar one of Magic Johnson sits  elegantly outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, it is perhaps fitting that Iowa, a farm state in the largely rural Midwest, honours its athletic heroes in butter. 

At the same time gymnast Shawn Johnson competes in the Beijing Olympics next month, she will appear as a butter sculpture at the Iowa State Fair, along with the life-size butter cow, a display that dates from 1911.

Butter sculptor Sarah Pratt plans to incorporate a balance beam into Johnson’s pose, said State Fair officials. Both sculptures will be displayed in a glass-windowed cooler, kept at 40 degrees F (4 degrees C), in the Agriculture Building  during the fair in Des Moines from Aug. 7-17. The Olympics are Aug. 8-24.

A bust of Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Barack Obama made of butter is on display at a campaign stop at South Tama County Middle School in ToledoJohnson, 16, from West Des Moines, will be the latest of a string of butter sculptures that have included golfer Tiger Woods, movie actor John Wayne and singer Elvis Presley. The fictional wizard Harry Potter was displayed last year.

The butter statue will be the second in Des Moines of the petite Johnson, who is 4 feet, 8 inches (1.4 meters) tall. Plans call for a bronze statue of her to be installed in late July at the Iowa Hall of Pride, which honors notable Iowans.

Picture of Shawn Johnson in action at June’s U.S. championships by Brian Snyder. Butter bust of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama in Iowa last December by Jim Young.   

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