State Fair of Texas Butters Up King Tut


Photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

Three thousand years after Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s entombment in a golden sarcophagus in Ancient Egypt, the boy king has been reincarnated — in 1,200 pounds of golden butter.

To coincide with the opening in Dallas of the National Geographic exhibit Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs (which runs from this week until May next year), the signature butter sculpture at this year’s State Fair of Texas has an Egyptian theme.

This year’s butter masterpiece depicts Anubis (a jackal-headed god associated with the dead in Egyptian mythology) attending to the mummified body of King Tut inside the tomb, said Nancy Wiley, spokesperson for the fair.


The sculpture was created by Sharon BuMann, the fair’s butter artist for the past 12 years.


“This is the largest butter sculpture she has ever done,” Wiley said. “It required nine days to complete, and this year’s fair theme, ‘Ignite Your Senses,’ the artist’s name and that of her assistant are written in hieroglyphics” in the butter.


State Fair of Texas records indicate that the first piece of butter art — a boy and a calf in the Mistletoe creamery exhibit — was on display in 1923.


“I’m not sure how many years this type of exhibit continued after that, but certainly it had stopped by the time butter was rationed during World War II,” Wiley said.”There were no butter sculptures for another 50 years, but the tradition was revived in 1997, when Sharon BuMann, a sculptress based in New York, created a life-size replica of a ranch woman with a longhorn calf out of a 700-pound slab of butter.”



BuMann’s sculptures for the fair included cowboys around a campfire, a girl with a horse, bucking horses and other Western-themed works. “In recent years,” Wiley explained, “she has crafted, at the fair’s request, scenes related to State Fair attractions: Elvis Presley and a hound dog, Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing up, the new Texas Skyway (gondola) ride — and this year, the Egyptian-themed display calling attention to the upcoming King Tut exhibit that opens this week at the Dallas Museum of Art.”


The butter Tut will be on display for 24 days, after which it will be scooped up and disposed of by the company that is contracted to handle the fair’s waste products, Wiley said.


 Marilyn Monroe butter sculpture photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn