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A milk beam from princess' mom

Princess Kay of the Milky Way, otherwise known as Elizabeth Olson, realizes a dream Thursday as Linda Christensen sculpts her likeness in a 90-pound butter block. Olson, who lives near Hutchinson, is the third girl in her family to sit in the refrigerated, rotating booth for hours while Christensen carved the butter. Don Davis/Minn. State Capitol Bureau

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. - Most Minnesota State Fair visitors smile, but Laura Olson beamed.

Olson stood outside a glass-enclosed, refrigerated booth containing one of her three daughters and a sculptor. It was a first-day-of-the-fair tradition Thursday, sculpting in a 90-pound butter block the likeness of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

For the Olsons, the fair itself is a tradition. It was 33 years ago Thursday that Laura Olson, a south-side-of-Chicago native at her first Minnesota fair, met "a bachelor farmer from Hutchinson." The two married and Loren and Laura Olson raised three daughters and a son, all deeply involved in the dairy business.

Elizabeth Olson, 18, became the second Olson girl to win the Princess Kay contest - becoming the Minnesota dairy industry's top ambassador - and the third daughter to have her likeness carved in butter as a princess finalist. No other family has produced two Princess Kays in the event's 56-year history.

The new princess, who will travel promoting the dairy industry, sat in the only heavy coat to be found on the fairgrounds and said that Thursday was a dream come true. "I have been preparing for this, whether or not I knew I was, since I showed my first calf."

She and her family have deep roots in dairy and fairs. Many in the family will be at the fair all 12 days.

Sarah Olson won the princess contest in 2002 and Lana Olson was a 2005 finalist.

"Uniquely for our family, Princess Kay is such a celebration at the State Fair," Lana Olson said.

The new princess so much loves fairs that her goal is to attend 100 county fairs around the country by the time she is 100.

Princess Kay, like other finalists, takes every opportunity to promote the dairy industry, even in the 40-degree cooler.

"For me, it is what my family has done for over 100 years," she said. "And I am anxious to show that. I know dairy farmers cannot have media interviews 10 times a day. Or they can't visit with school children three or four times a week."

The State Fair tradition happens each of the 12 days of the event when Linda Christensen carves the likeness of the 12 princess finalists in blocks of butter, which the contestants get to keep. That means Laura Olson needs to make room for another "butter head" when the 2009 fair ends on Labor Day.

Not a problem, she said, watching Christensen chip away the first pieces of butter to begin to form Elizabeth's sculpture.

"I just hope I remember every minute," she said.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.