Kansas State Fair

Butter sculpture anticipation

Trying to sneak a peek at Susan BuMann’s butter sculpture is like trying to get in to see the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

Though the paper was removed from the glass on the Pride of Kansas Building’s north door Thursday afternoon, BuMann was shut inside the refrigerated room with thick purple curtains covering the glass walls.

At every fair, one of my favorite things to do is to check on BuMann and what she is going to create. She is just as interesting to me as her work. A self-employed sculptor, she works in bronze and other permanent mediums throughout the year at her studio in New York, except when she is sculpting in butter for several state fairs.

The first year I saw BuMann at the fair, I knew she was special. After all, who walks around in the late summer heat dressed looking like they are about to hike the Swiss Alps in a blizzard? Clad in heavy winter gear from her Fair Isle stocking cap to boots and gloves, she comes to Kansas with her long underwear and works for several weeks in a freezer.

BuMann is an artist. While the rest of Hutchinson’s people are going about their routines in the weeks leading up to the fair, BuMann flies in to create a story out of butter that relates to the fair’s theme. She is picked up at the airport by the ever-patient Herman and Mae Popp, who nurture BuMann while she is in town and try to get her back to the airport on time when she is finished. But the flights always need to be changed, and sometimes the plane takes off without her as she puts one more finishing touch to her work. Working up until the last second, she has been known to hop in the car and change out of her winter gear in the back seat as Herman rushes to get her to Mid-Continent on time.

This year she began the butter sculpture in mid-August and planned to leave on a 4 p.m. flight Wednesday. But she changed her flight to Saturday, and was still working on the finishing touches Thursday.

“Let’s just say it’s rolling along,” BuMann said on Aug. 21, when she spoke briefly about this year’s idea.

Ready or not, at 11 a.m. today the butter sculpture will be unveiled. And BuMann plans to speak to the public about what inspired her to create this year’s work of art.

Kathy Hanks

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