By Jennie Zeitler
It’s that time of year when dairy princesses are chosen at county gatherings around Minnesota. The Stearns County American Dairy Association will be hosting the 2014 Dairy Princess Pageant Saturday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Melrose American Legion.
Lisa Maus is coordinating the pageant for the fourth year. It’s been a learning experience for her, since she grew up on a turkey farm north of New Munich.
Maus was on the Dairy Association board and serving in her first year as the pageant’s assistant coordinator when the coordinator role was suddenly vacated in 2012..
“It was right after the banquet,” Maus said. “I had to learn the coordinator’s job fast.”
“I love working with the girls,” she said. “I’ve learned better how to help them, giving them more information.”
This year’s candidates include: Maria Donnay, Kimball; Chelsea Gerads, Albany; Brooke Hemmesch, Paynesville; Tiffiny Kerfeld, Albany; Sabrina Ley, Belgrade; Shannon Mergen, Albany; Leah Middendorf, Sauk Centre; Abby Molitor, St. Cloud; Tiana Molitor, Belgrade; Trisha Molitor, Belgrade; Dana Overman, Freeport; Megan Skroch, St. Joseph; Morgan Uphoff, Melrose; Anna Westerman, Sauk Centre and Carleen Willenbring, Richmond.
Stearns County’s first Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Christine Reitsma of Sauk Centre, has been a good resource for Maus.
“Christine was crowned during my first full year as coordinator,” said Maus.
The dairy princess position is open to any young woman who is the daughter or sister of a dairy farmer or who works for a dairy farmer. Princesses and ambassadors are asked to share their knowledge of the dairy industry and promote their family’s business and way of life with the public. Candidates must be a high school graduate by July 1, but not yet 24 by July 1.
After applications have been received, Maus sets up a social in mid-February for everyone to meet.
The princesses are crowned at a banquet in early March. Regardless of how many candidates apply, half of the total number plus one are chosen to attend the next step in the dairy princess progression — May event.
With 15 candidates hoping to be a princess this year, eight of them will be crowned princess and are eligible to participate in the May Event while the other seven are crowned ambassadors.
May Event is an annual weekend for dairy promotion training at the College of St. Benedict that introduces the state’s dairy princesses to the judges and each other.
In addition to learning and socializing, the candidates are being judged for their dairy knowledge and ability to promote the industry.
At the end of the weekend 12 princesses from across the state are named to compete to be Princess Kay of the Milky Way, probably Minnesota’s most visible promoter of the dairy industry.
Princess Kay is crowned at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul the night before the State Fair begins.
Dairy princesses and ambassadors work hard all year to promote all things dairy. They visit elementary classrooms and ride in parades. They hand out dairy products at county fairs and give away gift baskets to the first babies born in area hospitals in June — Dairy Month. They participate in Breakfast on the Farm and record radio advertisements.
“Girls who have a passion for dairy farming and the industry — who are ‘dairy-hearted’ — should apply for the program,” Maus said.
Every participant is different, Maus has seen.
“Some live in the barn and know what’s going on with the industry but know nothing about what social media has to do with it,” she said. “Some show calves and have competed in a 4-H Dairy Project Bowl.”
Maus enjoys seeing the girls change during their time in the program. “I love seeing how much the girls mature from the first time I meet them to when they give their farewell speech,” she said.
For more information, call Maus at (320) 260-9507 or look on Facebook for Stearns County Dairy Princesses and Ambassadors.