Dairy Association’s “Princess” Program Churns Out Leaders, Ambassadors
Last week, the Midwest Dairy Association crowned its 64th Princess Kay of the Milky Way at the Minnesota State Fair. During her year-long reign, the princess will act as an ambassador for dairy farmers. She’ll also get to take home a butter sculpture of her face.
After several rounds of interviews, applications, and judging and hours of leadership training, 19-year-old Emily Annexstad of St. Peter, Minnesota, was crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way the evening before the Minnesota State Fair kicked off last week. It’s an honor bestowed each year on the young woman who best communicates her knowledge of and enthusiasm for the dairy industry.
This year marked the 64th competition, and according to Theresa Reps, integrated communications program manager at the Midwest Dairy Association—which founded and continues to sponsor the program—it does an important job for the organization.
“We’re looking to develop young dairy leaders,” Reps said. “We’ve got these youth that are interested in dairy, and some will go on and do careers in dairy, and some will go on to pursue careers in different paths, but we want them to be leaders, whichever career path they decide to go down.”
The program also churns out a new ambassador each year. Throughout her reign, the princess makes appearances at farm events, agricultural conferences, and schools to talk about the dairy industry and some of the association’s key programs.
“We want to have young dairy ambassadors who are able to share their dairy story with the public, and Princess Kay certainly provides that platform for us,” Reps said. “It’s a great way to connect with people who want to know more about dairy farming and the role dairy plays in the diet.”
The Princess Kay program is also a great excuse for commissioning butter sculptures.
St. Paul, Minnesota, was once known as the “Butter Capital of the World.” And even if the superlative hasn’t stuck, the tradition of butter sculpting has—and Midwest Dairy’s butter sculptor has continued, year after year, to cut the visage of each of the finalists for the Princess Kay crown.
Reps said the butter sculptures have become a way that the association honors the princess candidates and their close-knit dairy communities. Over the years, many Princess Kay finalists have taken their 90 pounds’ worth of butter home to their communities and donated it to various shelters or charities—or even hosted community “corn feeds,” parties in which people roll ears of corn along the buttery sculpture of their hometown girl.
“They get a lot of support from their community, and when it’s all said and done, that’s what they want to give back to,” Reps said.
Emily Annexstad, the newly crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way. (Handout photo)