June Dairy Month was established to promote the sale of dairy products at a time of year when dairy sales tend to slow down. But it also has the important role of keeping 4-H kids busy handing out free ice-cream and Swiss Miss pudding and gives every dairy princess enough events to earn her keep for the rest of her one-year reign.
I suppose the extent of a person’s interaction with the agricultural nobility depends on where they live and how many county fairs they’ve attended. Some may be unaware entirely of the vast yearly traditions in the rural areas of America where young women don tiaras and sashes and compete for a host of dairy and corn princess positions, or to be a “Fairest of the Fairs”, or for more prestigous titles such as Princess Kay of the Milky Way, the Iowa Pork Queen, and the American Honey Queen.
The really big title in the Wisconsin dairy world is Alice in Dairyland. Wisconsin, as America’s self-proclaimed dairyland, began the Alice in Dairyland program in 1948 to promote our dairy industry to the nation. Alice began as a beauty queen, but today every year’s Alice is a public relations professional who works for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. She gets the use of an ethanol powered Tahoe, a $40,000 salary, an amatheyst necklace, and a mink coat.
Although I had no place to wear a mink coat, I decided to run for Alice when I first met her. I was 14 and too young. In 2012 I was due to turn the required 21 years of age right on the day the new Alice would be crowned. I made it into the final five and drove from the family farm in Eau Claire to Platteville, WI for the finals – a grueling schedule of tours, interviews, writing challenges, and speeches. (click here,and here, for proof I actually did this)
Ten Things Learned
1. Platteville, WI is a heckofuva ways from Eau Claire, WI.
If you get lost near Platteville, stumble upon a tiny town with only a bar, and ask the people in said bar how to get to Eau Claire, they will not have heard of it.
2. Seed company CEOs don’t appreciate hard-hitting questions.
Apparently Alice is supposed to smile and nod more and be Lois Lane less.
3. Reporters don’t always check their facts.
A Google search will reveal that I am a longtime FFA member with many awards. Ironic, since as a homeschooled student, I was not allowed in my local FFA chapter.
4. When a cameraman tells you to stay in a certain place….
5. A five minute speech given alone on a large stage to 200 people whom you can’t see because of the glare from the stage lights goes so quickly you’ll have no memories of it.
No, I wasn’t brave enough to watch the video.
6. There is such a thing as too much cheese.
It‘s not in the official job description, but if our Alice crash course was anything to judge by, Alice needs to have the capability to consume 1.5 lbs of cheese daily.
7. It’s all in the handshake.
People will believe a girl milked cows for ten years once they shake her hand.
8. People want to share their stories.
I was able to hear the stories of so many people, from the woman who moved from San Diego to Lancaster, WI to be near her family and was now working at a goat cheese factory, to a man who knew the entire mining history of Platteville, to a woman whose passion was creating personalized popcorn flavors, to how the very first Alice became Alice (A friend secretly sent her picture to the judges)!
9. The very first Alice in Dairyland still looks fabulous.
10. When your own family can’t make it to the final event, your CROPP family will be there for you. With flowers.
Thank you Joe and Lisa Klein, Robin Connelly, Melissa Weyland , Lisa Carnahan, and Allison Walent.