By SOPHIA AHMAD • firstname.lastname@example.org • July 1, 2009
Just churn it.
This summer, the Iowa State Fair's famous butter cow will share its 40-degree refrigerated glass case with a sculpture of Michael Jackson.
The King of Pop died at age 50 on Thursday in Los Angeles.
The man in the mirror, er, cooler, and the cow, this year a Jersey, will be on display Aug. 13-23 in the usual prominent spot in the Agriculture Building.
"My intent wasn't to honor (Jackson) as a hero," said Sarah Pratt, the West Des Moines native who in 2006 became the fair's fourth butter sculptor.
"We're just trying to pay tribute to his contribution to music and dance ... as opposed to giving any scrutiny of his life," added Lori Chappell, the State Fair's marketing director.
Jackson will be sculpted in his famous "moonwalk" pose, paying tribute to the fluid, backward dance step he debuted in 1983, when "Billie Jean," "Thriller" and other hit songs blanketed MTV.
In a play on words and related events, the sculpture also will honor the 40th anniversary of the original “moonwalk,” Neil Armstrong’s first small step on the moon on July 20, 1969.
Chappell and Pratt collaborated on the creative vision for the butter Jackson and finalized their plans Monday.
The moon-landing anniversary was Pratt's initial idea, but Jackson's death prompted her to link the tributes. The sculpture also will harken back to Jackson's State Fair Grandstand performance on Aug. 29, 1971, when he and the rest of the Jackson 5 entertained 17,000 fans at two concerts.
Pratt will sculpt the 1980s Jackson, all shining smile and curls, as opposed to his more recent drastically altered appearance: cleft chin, thinner nose and long, wavy hair.
Pratt, 32, counts herself a childhood Jackson fan.
"I remember buying the cassette tape of 'Bad' after I got my first boombox," she said.
Despite Jackson's overwhelming success and popularity, Chappell realizes that a sculpture of him could become controversial. The pop star in December 2003 was accused of child molestation but cleared of those charges in June 2005.
News reports this week have cited drug cocktails as playing a possible role in Jackson's death, although toxicology results could take several more weeks. Jackson's alleged dependence on prescription drugs is said to have begun in 1984 after he was burned while filming a Pepsi commercial.
Pratt's previous sculptures have included famous Iowans: World Food Prize founder Norman Borlaug and Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson. She has also carved pop-culture symbols: Harry Potter in 2007 and Norwalk native Brandon "Superman" Routh in 2006.
Sketches for the butter Jackson should be ready by July 10 and sculpting will begin July 23, Pratt said.
Maybe Jackson, who grew up a Midwest boy from Gary, Ind., and recorded with the Jackson 5 on the Motown record label founded in Detroit, would appreciate this uniquely rural, agrarian tribute.
At least Iowa can say: Beat that, Indiana and Michigan state fairs.
Here's the butter Shawn Johnson from last year, LOL.