CONSHOHOCKEN — The Keystone state's most famous mascots know which side their bread is buttered on now that food sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton have unveiled their latest masterwork for the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Christened “East Meets West at the Pennsylvania Farm Show,” the Conshohocken couple's sculpture interprets the characters sharing a moment of camaraderie through their mutual love of various dairy products.
"It's the three mascots for professional sports teams in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Gritty, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Swoop and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steely McBeam," Victor explained by phone following the unveiling. "They're all tailgating, standing around a cooler which has a lot of dairy products that they're snacking on ... milkshakes, cheese, cheeseburgers, pizza.
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman was on hand for the event, along with Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and representatives from the dairy industry.
The concept for this year's 1,100 pound hunk of Land o' Lakes butter was provided by the Department of Agriculture and the American Dairy Association North East Association, Pelton noted.
"The unveiling always feels like a big holiday celebration," she said. "People are always looking forward to it, so there's a lot of anticipation around the whole thing, wondering what its going to be this year. And it really is a special theme this year, it's much different than it has been in years past because they've never had mascots. Usually the butter sculpture is something to do with the Farm Show. So basically this was an opportunity for the unveiling to broaden the audience for the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Bringing in the mascots brings in all the different fans of those mascots."
Victor said the theme was something a lot of folks could relate to.
"We did like that we had a different theme this year. It was a very light kind of theme and something that everybody would have fun with because everybody likes the sports teams," he said. "It kind of unites Western Pennsylvania with Eastern Pennsylvania in terms of the sports characters. So they're trying to bring everybody together with this one."
“East Meets West at the Pennsylvania Farm Show” took a dozen days for the husband wife team to complete, Pelton allowed.
"Our usual time is 10 days but this time it was a little bit more," she said.
Victor and Pelton also work in other in chocolate and a variety of edible forms.
"Butter is like clay, so it's very easy to work with," Victor said. "Chocoloate can take a lot longer to do. And butter is very temperature controlled. By varying the temperature it enables us to work faster or more detailed, depending on what we want to do."
The couple has been awarded the job of creating the butter sculptures 19 times now, including a cow sculpture in 2003 and a 2005 piece called "Preserving the Pennsylvania Farm."
Even after so much time huddled in a frigid display case on so many occasions carving butter into art, Pelton said she never loses her taste for butter.
"Absolutely not, it's still as delicious as ever," she said.
"We never really think about it,"Victor added. "When we're in there working it's a product. We never think about eating it. In fact, this stuff is really inedible. This is recycled waste butter to begin with and so we get to use it. And it' will be recycled again when it gets put in the digester with other kinds of waste and then turned into methane gas and eventually electricity. So it's used a couple of times."
The sculpture is a unique way to promote dairy, Pelton noted.
"I think that's always been the purpose of butter sculptures. Even when they first started out it was a way of promoting dairy and farming, and just celebrating the bounty of the harvest. Especially this time of year."
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the nation’s largest indoor agricultural event, featuring 12,000 competitive exhibits, more than 5,200 of which are animal competitions, plus 300 commercial exhibitors.
The butter sculpture is on display in the Farm Show’s Main Hall from Jan. 4 through 11.
Admission is free and parking is $15 in Farm Show lots at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, 2300 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg.