How I got that job: Linda Christensen, 67
Hometown: Oceanside, Calif. (for six years, but I'm really a displaced Minnesotan.)
Employer: Midwest Dairy Association
Job: Sculptor of unusual substances (Butterhead sculptor at the State Fair; also Christensen recently sculpted 350 pounds of white chocolate into a bust of Conan O'Brien -- with bacon hair.)
Hours: Roughly 9 to 5 all 12 days of the fair (one head per day).
Education: Minneapolis College of Art and Design graduate (1972). That was the year that they were looking for someone new to take over doing the butter sculptures. They called the school and they recommended me. That's now history, 37 years! Butter sculpture itself has quite a history. It started in the 1800s, and they sculpted tons of this stuff before there was refrigeration. I don't even know how they kept it cool. They did a whole scene of De La Salle and Father Hennepin discovering Minnesota, life-sized, for the Chicago World's Fair, I think.
Was it hard to get the job? No. I came over here in July, they got the booth going and gave me a 50-pound block that was all the wrong shape. The president of the American Dairy Association had brought a neighbor over to sit for me and I was maybe one-third, not even half done. They said "Oh, that's good enough, you're going to be able to do this, you're hired." So the first time I walked into the butter booth and I looked at that crowd ... I was a little nervous.
How much longer are you going to be carving the dairy princesses?
Until I can't.
What do you do the rest of the year?
I could do this all year long if there were a call for it. I'm a wine adviser. You can't live in California without learning something about wine. For 22 years before that I had my own line of greeting cards.
Has anything crazy happened with the butterheads over the years?
One time while they were moving the butterheads, one of the kids looked out and saw the crowd and started dancing with the sculpture. They're heavy, they start out at 90 pounds and the most I ever take off is a third of that. So, it slipped out of his hands, and smashed the face of the sculpture against the glass. I heard the crowd all scream -- he had fainted! But there's nothing you can't fix with butter, it's like clay. I just touched it up a little bit, put some butter back on and it was fine.