AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s a yearly tradition for many people in Western New York to get a butter lamb for their Easter brunch or dinner. But one family goes above and beyond with their Easter centerpiece, and it all dates back to the 1970s.
Back in the mid 70s, a guy with a larger-than-life personality and who stood 6’7″ started ordering larger-thank-life butter lambs from the Broadway Market. Each year, Joe Garbatowicz would order it bigger and bigger.
“If you came to the house, you definitely had to take a picture with the butter lamb,” Jomark Garbatowicz said, Joe’s son.
And it became a yearly tradition for people to visit and get their pictures with the monstrosity.
But in the early 80s, sadly, Joe passed away. The big butter lamb tradition faded with Joe’s passing for awhile… but then about 15 years ago, Jomark and his sister Alanna decided to bring it back.
With kids of their own, Alanna and Jomark carry on the tradition now… but instead of ordering one, they make it themselves.
“And my mother-in-law, Brian’s mom, who has also passed, used to teach butter lamb sculpting at the church she belonged to,” Alanna Pokorski said. “When we first started, she would walk us through making a little butter lamb into a big butter lamb.”
The family now carves out a butter lamb sculpting day from their schedules every year.
“There’s a lot of unwrapping of butter,” Jomark said.
They start with 80 cold sticks of butter (yes, 80). And everyone has their own role. The kids unwrap all the sticks and Jomark and Alanna’s husband Brian start the sculpting.
“It almost looks like a sphynx initially and then you just start taking the knife to it,” Brian Pokorski said.
About halfway through, they take a break to put the butter back in the fridge to get it cold again. Then, the family creates the sheepskin. On a normal-sized butter lamb, cloves are used for the eyes and nose, but for a 20 lb one, this family uses large jelly beans and licorice for the smile and ears.
When it’s done, their church even blesses the butter lamb. And people still come over and take pictures with it.
So why do this?
Alanna and Jomark say it’s a fun way to celebrate their Polish heritage, spend quality time together and of course, honor dad.
“Family, tradition, and of course my dad,” Jomark said.
After Easter, the entire butter lamb gets eaten. It’s split in half between Jomark and Alanna’s families and put in the freezer. Whenever they bake, they take some out and use it.
Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.