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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Recent grad appears on Letterman, with her 50-pound butter sculpture

Betty Holdvogt

Recent graduate Betty Holdvogt recently appreared on "The Late Show With David Letterman" -- as did the 50-pound butter sculpture of Holdvogt's head.

2007-02-28
Amanda Dyslin , Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 2/28/2007]

Janet Fofie
Holdvogt, a 2006 graduate of Minnesota State University, lugged this 50-pound butter sculpture through airports last week so she could appear on the "Late Show with David Letterman."

It had been four years since Betty Holdvogt had her likeness carved in butter.

It was old news at this point. Surely it wouldn't attract the attention of David Letterman's production team.

Still, standing in line to watch a taping of the "Late Show" over New Year's a couple of months ago, she was handed a questionnaire to fill out for the "Show and Tell" segment when Letterman talks to the audience. Clearly, of all the interesting things about her, the fact the Minnesota State University graduate was immortalized in a 50-pound slab of butter would stand out the most.

It did. Holdvogt, 22, who grew up on a dairy farm near Melrose in central Minnesota, was contacted by the show that night, but not for her to appear that week while she was in New York. Her story was so quirky — or so it seemed to big-city talk show producers — they decided to save the segment for last week during February sweeps, a competitive ratings period for networks and cable stations.

Lucky for the show, Holdvogt still had her butter head, tucked away in her parents' freezer.

Just as Holdvogt's two sisters had been before her, Holdvogt was named the Stearns County Dairy Princess and went on to become one of 12 finalists out of 80 or 90 princesses for the 2003 Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Association.

As a finalist, she sat for seven hours while veteran butter sculptor Linda Christensen carved out Holdvogt's likeness from a 90-pound block of butter. Holdvogt didn't win the title, but she got to take home her butter head.

"I think it did look like me," she said.

Originally the plan was for Holdvogt to show pictures of the bust on the show. But when they learned she still had the sculpture, the show bought Holdvogt two plane tickets to fly to New York — one seat for her and one for her butter head.

"I had to drag this massive cooler through the airport," she said. "It was funny."

Her segment on the show was pretty funny, too. For a little background, the audience learned "Holdvogt" is German for "good land owner" and that she's a human resources intern at SPX Corp. in Owatonna, an automotive tool-making company.

"Oh, the SPX Corp. They make ... sunscreen?" Letterman joked, mistaking SPX with SPF.

Letterman was so impressed by Holdvogt's Dairy Princess title he led the audience in a standing ovation. And the news that she became a finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way resulted in a second standing ovation.

Letterman's production assistant, Biff, wheeled out Holdvogt's butter head of Oleo, which was almost completely intact.

"I've actually used a little bit of it," she said. "It was a sweet corn feed."

Just small chunks were missing from the shoulders. After four years of pancakes and loaves of bread that have come through the Holdvogt household, that shows quite a bit of restraint.

Holdvogt plans to keep the sculpture intact for a while. Eventually, she said, she'll probably cut it up and give pieces to friends and family.

Incidentally, Letterman made no mention that he, too, had once been carved out of butter by Christensen, albeit from a photograph, said Sherry Newell, industry relations and communications manager of the Midwest Dairy Association. To celebrate Letterman changing networks from NBC to CBS in 1993, he commissioned Christensen to sculpt him in butter.

Who knows whatever became of Letterman's butter head. But chances are, there probably wasn't a corn feed involved.

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