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“We want to continue to be that light for dairy farmers” – Princess Kay of the Milky Way selection continues



Holding onto an excitement for new opportunities to celebrate farmers, Princess Kay of the Milky Way is finding unique solutions for obstacles created by COVID-19.

Typically selected the night before the Minnesota State Fair, Princess Kay serves as a goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s dairy farmer. She is selected through a three-phase process.

“It is a really cool process for us because not only do you have these amazing, passionate advocates, but you also get to help provide some leadership development along the way,” Theresa Reps, agricultural affairs manager with Midwest Dairy said.

First, candidates must be a county dairy princess. Normally in May, all of those princesses would come together for a leadership event with the opportunity to become a finalist. The first stage involves personal interviews, mock media interviews and a speech. From there, 10 young women are selected to move forward in the competition.

For the first time because of COVID-19, the initial interview process to select 10 finalists was completed online.

“It took a lot of coordination because we still wanted to keep the integrity of our in-person contest alive, so we wanted to maintain as much normalcy as possible using technology,” Reps said.

Some of the candidate scenarios were re-created to make them more realistic. For instance, the women were evaluated on their ability to deliver speeches and connect with an audience over Zoom since that has been the reality for current Princess Kay of the Milky Way Amy Kyllo.

“It will be an interesting year to see how the Princess Kay program continues to evolve and reach consumers through different platforms,” Reps said.

The final selection takes place in august with new judges who evaluate speeches, mock media interviews, personal interviews, written assignments and extemporary speeches.

Reps said the decision to cancel the Minnesota State Fair will impact their program, but it was a possibility they had been preparing for the sake of the candidates. A committee of dairy farmers that reports to the Minnesota division at Midwest Dairy decided to select the 67th Princess Kay regardless of the fair’s fate.

“What that means for us is that we just get to find new ways to host a coronation,” Reps said. “We are going to try to do some butter sculpting. It is not the primary focus of Princess Kay of the Milky Way, but it is a cool feature and one that gives us a unique platform to talk about dairy and dairy farmers and share each of those advocates’ passion for dairy.”

Final plans for what the crowning will look like are expected by mid-summer with options for those interested to view the program online. People can stay updated on Princess Kay’s progress on social media or Midwest Dairy’s website and social media.

“We want to continue to be that light and that hope for our dairy farmers that love this program as much as the girls that are involved in it,” Reps said. “We are excited to continue forward to see what this year is going to bring.”

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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