Butter sculptures have been a rich tradition at the CNE since the 1950s, but this year a dairy-based effigy of a certain Canadian prime minister has been grabbing headlines at home and abroad.
After getting their hands on a deep-fried burrito stuffed with macaroni and cheese curds or some charcoal ice cream, visitors at the CNE can take in a butter sculpture of Justin Trudeau holding a pair of pandas from the Toronto Zoo, a reference to the time he met Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue last March.
"Normally, we have important figures in the country commemorated in bronze or in stone," lead sculptor David Salazar told CBC's Metro Morning. "I think sculpting [Trudeau] in butter sort of brings it home to everybody... it's a material we all butter our toast with in the morning."
The sculpture has garnered international media attention from the U.S. and the U.K., and Salazar said it's a hit at home as well, due to its close resemblance to the real person.
"[People] are expecting a clear likeness to the prime minister," he said. "They see him everyday... not necessarily in butter."
'Iconic images' of Toronto animals
The Trudeau piece is a part of a wider theme called "Wild in the 6," where Salazar and a team of four other sculptors — Olenka Kleban, Sean Kosonic, Laird Henderson and Bailey Henderson — create butter sculptures of animals that have some history or importance to Toronto.
"The team and myself came up with this idea, and we thought to have a little bit of fun with it," said Salazar. "We thought that the iconic images of these animals — like the capybara, the Ikea monkey, Justin Trudeau with the pandas — people would recognize them very quickly."
Salazar and his team are currently working on other well-known Toronto animals, such as the doughnut-stealing raccoon, the chocolate-stealing squirrel and a giant hog, in reference to Toronto's nickname "Hogtown."
Salazar, now butter-sculpting for the second year at the exhibition, said visitors love sharing stories of their previous experiences with butter sculptures at the CNE.
"There's a big following for butter sculptures and people share stories of when they were kids and how they're now bringing their own grandchildren to watch butter sculptures," he said. "It's a big event."
'By the end of the day, you're glistening'
The team will work on the sculptures throughout the duration of the CNE, sculpting inside a refrigerator separated from guests by glass.
At the end of the CNE, the 1,200 kilograms of butter used will be sustainably composted.
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For Salazar, who normally sculpts in clay, working with butter is both challenging and fun.
"It's an opportunity for sculptors to work at a scale that maybe they're not accustomed to working at," he said, noting that butter is a tricky substance to work with and which quickly melts when sculpting.
"By the end of the day, you're glistening and extremely moisturized. Dogs follow you home from the aroma," Salazar added.
"I think I'll get back to clay."