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Rebeckah Schroeder represents Houston County as Princess Kay of the Milky Way Finalist

Kaitlyn Riley

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A Houston County native’s passion for the dairy industry pushes her as a Princess Kay of the Milky Way Finalist in 2020.

Rebeckah Schroeder grew up on her family’s 160-cow dairy just south of Caledonia. They farm 1,600 acres with crops going back to the cattle. She started farming when she was 12 and decided it was the career for her after graduating from Caledonia High School in 2018.

On the farm, Schroeder manages parlor operations, feeds youngstock, and helps with fieldwork and any other job where she can lend a hand on the farm.

“I really like getting to know the animals,” Schroeder said. “I like watching them grow, helping them, and getting to know them more on a personal level. I also just like being outside and taking control of my day.”

Schroeder began her journey to becoming a Princess Kay of the Milky Way Finalist by first applying to be the Houston County Dairy Princess. From there, she qualifies to apply for the statewide position which includes multiple components from written applications to mock media interviews, speeches, and more.

The process is not quite the same in 2020 because of COVID-19. The 67th Princess Kay of the Milky Way will be crowned Wednesday, Aug. 12 at a private banquet for the 10 candidates and their families. The ceremony itself will be live-streamed through the Princess Kay Facebook page.

This year, the candidates were asked to focus their speech topic on a presentation that would be delivered to high school students over a virtual platform such as Zoom.

“It is definitely different not having that in-person feel that I prefer, but it was a good experience, and I think Midwest Dairy did a very good job at making it similar to the previous year,” Schroeder said.

Princess Kay is a goal of Schroeders because of what the title represents.

“Princess Kay represents the Minnesota Dairy Farmers and promotes the products they produce,” she said. “It is good to have young agriculturalists go out and promote the products and make sure people understand what dairy is and that it is healthy and nutritious with nine essential nutrients. It is important to connect with consumers because a lot of people are confused. Just having somebody to go to is nice for the public.”

She said consumers often approach her with questions about labels on dairy products and what they mean for nutrition and safety.

While the Minnesota State Fair has been canceled for 2020, the rich tradition of butter sculpting will continue, with the newly crowned Princess Kay’s likeness scheduled to be sculpted on Thursday, Aug. 13. This will take place on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in the butter booth inside the Dairy Building, where the butter sculpting typically takes place. The nine other finalists will be sculpted in the subsequent days, with the final sculpture being created on Saturday, Aug. 22. Although the public will not be able to enjoy the butter sculpting in person, live updates will be streamed on the Princess Kay Facebook page each day, with opportunities to virtually ask questions and interact with Princess Kay and the finalists. 

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 both 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.