My name is Katelyn Blackwelder and I am interning at the Fair this summer handling Ag Education Center, livestock show, and Big Iron Farm Show duties. I just finished my junior year at North Dakota State University double majoring in Agricultural Communications and Public Relations & Advertising with a minor in Animal Science. I grew up on a 330 cow dairy farm in Chokio (Sha-ki-o), MN. My family also grows 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. I also have a 90 pound block of butter carved to look like my face in my parent’s freezer….but more about that later.
Growing up on a farm I always loved my cows, calves and cats. I showed cattle in 4-H from second grade until my first year of college and this really sparked my interest in agriculture. I always had chores to do on the farm, like feeding calves and helping with DHIA testing, but didn’t want to come back to work on the farm after college. However, I knew that I wanted to remain connected to agriculture in some way. I knew I liked planning and organizing as well as educating people about my farm and the dairy industry. This led to my choice to major in Agriculture Communications.
When I saw that the Red River Valley Fair was looking for an intern to help with the Ag Education Center, livestock shows and Big Iron Farm Show, I wondered if there could be any internship more perfect for me. So far, I’ve been contacting many different commodity and livestock groups to plan their display for the Ag Education Center and designing informational signage for the building. With people now being 2 or 3 generations removed from a farm, it is more important than ever to educate people about where their food comes from. Some kids (and adults!) don’t know that milk comes from a cow; they just think it is made at the store. Besides the agriculture education part of my internship, I have also been assisting Jodi with other fair duties, such as social media, sponsorships and our new mobile app. I am looking forward to the Fair so that I can see people enjoying the event that so many of us in the office have worked hard to put on…it’s only 10 days away!
I told you earlier that I would tell you about that 90 pound block of butter carved to look like me. Well, last summer, I was selected as one of 12 finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way, the state dairy princess of Minnesota. North Dakota has a dairy princess too, but only Minnesota has the tradition of the butter sculptures. Twelve finalists are chosen from about 75 county dairy princesses from around the state and are judged on a written application, speech, mock media interview and personal interview. To be a county dairy princess, girls must live or work on a dairy farm, be under the age of 24 with no children, and have a passion and interest in promoting the dairy industry. These 12 finalists go on to compete for the title, and each finalist gets their likeness carved into a block of butter during the Minnesota State Fair. More judging is completed, and one finalist is selected to be Princess Kay. The new Princess Kay is crowned the night before the state fair opens. The current Princess Kay is actually my college roommate at NDSU. She serves as the dairy industry’s goodwill ambassador for one year and makes many appearances, including all 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair, classroom visits and other agriculture events and meetings.
The butter sculptures of the 12 finalists are carved by Linda Christensen, who has carved them for 42 years! One butter sculpture is completed each day and all are displayed in a glass, rotating cooler throughout the state fair where fair-goers can watch the process. While I was being carved in the butter booth, fair-goers were able to ask me questions about the sculpting process or myself through a microphone. I actually got asked out on a date by one fair-goer while I was sitting in the booth! The finalist and Linda both stay in the rotating cooler while the butter sculpture is being carved-which takes around 7 hours! Of course, we get to take a couple short breaks in those 7 hours, but we still get cold because the cooler is around 30 degrees. The butter blocks start at 90 pounds, but are actually about 75 pounds once the likeness is carved and finished. Each finalist gets to take their butter sculpture, and its scraps, home at the end of the fair. My parents purchased a smaller chest freezer to hold my butter sculpture and it has stayed there since it arrived at my home. Part of me hopes to be able to use the butter at a sweet corn feed or maybe my wedding (whenever that may be), while the other part of me wants to keep the memento around forever.
Twelve new girls were selected as finalists a few weeks ago, so if you are lucky enough to attend both the Red River Valley Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, be sure to check out the new butter sculptures that will be carved. Otherwise, I hope to see you all at the Ag Education Center July 8th through the 13th!
[The above post was written by Katelyn Blackwelder. Katelyn is the middle child with two brothers; they helped shape her into the tomboy that she is today. Katelyn’s two favorite things are cows and baseball. You will find Katelyn hanging out in the Ag Education Center and the Livestock Barns during the 2014 Red River Valley Fair.]