A woman who helped make the Iowa State Fair the attraction that it is today died of a stroke this weekend. Norma “Duffy” Lyon was 81. Most Iowans knew Lyon as “the butter cow lady” as she carved life-sized cows out of butter for 45 years at the Fair.
Most Iowans knew Lyon as “the butter cow lady” as she carved life-sized cows out of butter for 45 years at the Fair. Kathy Swift served as a spokesperson for the Fair before retiring in 2004. She says Lyon essentially stole the role of “butter cow lady” in 1960.
“It’s my understanding that she saw a butter cow at a previous Fair and called up one of the officials of the Fair and said, ‘I think I can do better.’ He took her up on that and a tradition and a great artist was born,” Swift said. Lyon crafted 46 butter cows at the Iowa State Fair along with other butter sculptures – including Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks and a recreation of American Gothic.
Her works helps draw huge crowds to the Iowa State Fair. “Duffy Lyon was an integral part of the lineup of attractions and activities that appealed people to come,” Swift said. “Each year, people were really interested in knowing what she was going to sculpt that year and the line to walk by the cooler in the Agriculture Building was always a long one.”
Swift says Duffy Lyon was more than just a famous artist. She and her husband, Joe, had nine children, 23 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The couple owned and operated Lyon Jerseys Dairy Farm in Toledo, Iowa. Sarah Pratt of Norwalk took over the job of sculpting butter cows at the Iowa State Fair in 2006.
Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Fair.