Princess Kay Of The Milky Way & Her Famous Butter Bust — In Photos

Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Ever since she was a very little girl, Haley Hinrichs has dreamed about having her head sculpted in butter.

Growing up in Minnesota, Hinrichs idolized Princess Kay of the Milky Way. The princess, crowned each year at the state fair, spends the year serving as a goodwill ambassador of the state's dairy farming community. She also has the honor of getting her likeness carved into a 90-pound block of cold butter. The statue is crafted and put on display during the state fair.

"It means a lot, just because I know that I’m not only making my dad, who is a dairy farmer, proud," Hinrichs, 19, told Refinery29. In her new role, Hinrichs is tasked with carrying the torch for her state's thousands of other dairy farmers, too.

The college student plans to use her platform to "share with everyone and anyone who [will] listen more about the dairy industry.” And there's no shortage of dairy details and data to spread.

Minnesota dairy farmers produced more than 1 billion gallons of milk in 2014, according to the Midwest Dairy Association. That's enough milk to fill more than 1,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Nationwide, the industry is connected to more than 900,000 jobs and $40 billion in dairy product sales, the association says.

Those are key points for Hinrichs, who worries about the long-term implications of society "becoming more and more removed from agriculture."

"What I really want people to know is even if you don't live on a dairy farm, the dairy community still affects you," she said.

Ahead, a look at what it's like to sit for a butter sculpture as Princess Kay of The Milky Way.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
One of the official duties of the dairy princess is to sit for a butter sculpture during the state fair.

The idea that she could be Princess Kay of the Milky Way first came to Hinrichs when she was in the third or fourth grade.

She was eating ice cream with her dad on the fairgrounds, admiring the sculptures, when he told her, "You can be a butter head someday — you’ve lived on a farm your entire life and you are involved in the dairy community."
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
The butter busts are created by artist Linda Christensen, who has completed more than 500 butter sculptures in her 45 years with the state fair.

The butter booth's temperature is kept at 40 degrees, so the butter doesn’t melt. Hinrichs said she bundled up in snow pants and a nice jacket to keep warm.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Princess Kay has been a mainstay at the Minnesota State Fair for six decades. She is crowned on the eve of the 12-day fair and holds the title all year.

"It was so cool," Hinrichs said of the experience. "I still have a lot of adrenaline."
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Princess Kay isn't the only dairy princess who makes appearances at the state fair — all the finalists sit for butter sculptures throughout the week.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Butter sculpting at the state fair began as a way to highlight Minnesota’s claim as the “butter capital of the nation.”
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Three princess finalists hang out after a daily parade. In total, 12 finalists from across the state compete for the crown each year.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Attendees can expect plenty of activities typically associated with summer fairs — fried foods, concerts, and games galore.

But the tradition of agricultural exhibits and competitions remains a major focus.

This agricultural educational center features live birthing throughout the fair's 12-day run. The eggs are numbered to coincide with what day of the fair they’ll hatch.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
A winner in the 4H Cattle Dairy Show. Hinrichs also grew up participating in 4H and showed cattle herself as a young girl.

"I started going right after sixth grade up until senior year in high school," she said.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Hinrichs visits and brushes a friend’s cow, Polly. The role of dairy princess is open to women with strong ties to the farming industry.

"The number one qualification is you have to be very passionate about the dairy community," she said.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
The animal competitions include other animals, too. Some participants show rabbits, for example. Most of the women breed their own rabbits.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Prizes for the 4H competition winners.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Fairchilds, the Minnesota State Fair mascot, helps Hinrichs onto a float before the parade. The gopher character became the official mascot in 1966.
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Photographed by Simone Lueck.
Hinrichs plans to continue to pursue her passion for the farming industry — she's currently studying agricultural communication and education at Iowa State University.

"No matter what I do, I just want to be able to make an impact sharing with people where their food comes from," she said.