Princess Kay of the Milky Way festivities will look a bit different this year due to COVID-19.
The 67th annual coronation event will be privately attended Aug. 12 by the 10 candidates and their families. The event will be livestreamed through the Princess Kay Facebook page.
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Butter sculpting will take place in closed sessions at the butter booth inside the Dairy Building on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds beginning Aug. 13. The new Princess Kay will have her butter sculpting that first day, followed by the nine other candidates. The final sculpture will be created on Aug. 22.
While the public will not be able to view the butter sculpting in person this year, live updates of this annual state fair tradition also will be streamed daily on the Princess Kay Facebook page. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask questions virtually and interact with Princess Kay and the finalists via Facebook.
Due to travel restrictions and risks associated with the pandemic, long-time butter sculptor Linda Christensen, who resides in California, will not be traveling to Minnesota to sculpt this year. After spending two years as an apprentice with Christensen, Gerry Kulzer, an artist and teacher from Litchfield, will carve all 10 of the butter sculptures this year.
Christensen plans to return next year, her 50th year of carving Princess Kay, before officially passing the knife to Kulzer to take over as sculptor for the program.
Promoting dairy virtually
The young women serving in the role of Princess Kay of the Milky Way are usually on the road almost non-stop during their reign, attending dairy promotion events across the state. The reign of current Princess Kay Amy Kyllo of Byron started out like the others, with the whirlwind of in-person activities at the State Fair, followed by parades, speaking engagements, and school and daycare visits. Kyllo had the opportunity to do some of those things, plus participate in promoting the National Dairy Council and NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 school wellness program.
Then life pivoted in mid-March due to COVID-19.
No longer able to personally meet with consumers, Kyllo began using social media tools and her computer to make connections. She did virtual Zoom visits with students enrolled in a freshman animal science class at Crookston and with residents at a senior center. She played Pictionary with 4-H’ers via Zoom, sharing her life on her family’s dairy farm.
Midwest DairyDRIVE-THROUGH LEARNING: Visitors could not walk around farms during June Dairy Month this year due to concerns about keeping social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Minnesota dairy farms hosted drive-through dairy experiences. Princess Kay Amy Kyllo attended both. Huneke Dairy in Goodhue County welcomed visitors June 19 to their farm.
“I shared a lot of pictures and videos on my screen,” she says. “That was a really effective way to show people my family’s farm and my love of dairy.”
June Dairy Month can be equated to a marathon for Princess Kay candidates as they travel across Minnesota attending numerous dairy breakfasts and on-farm events. This June, however, Kyllo only had two on-farm activities to attend in Goodhue and Fillmore counties, which operated as “drive-through” events.
“Both were very well-attended, and people were excited to be there,” she says. Attending these socially distant events made it apparent to Kyllo how much she enjoys meeting and mingling with people.
“These helped me realize how much I loved seeing people in person even if we were six feet apart and had masks on,” she says.
Her final days as Princess Kay have been full of more virtual meetings and media requests. Her last day in the role is Aug. 12, when she will crown the next Princess Kay.
“This has been an adventure of a lifetime for just being a farm girl,” Kyllo says. “It’s been emotional and exciting to be Princess Kay.
“One of my goals has been to bring a smile to people’s faces when I meet them. It was important to me to share that dairy farming is more than a job, it a blessing to be part of the community, providing food for consumers and taking good care of the land.
“Being Princess Kay wasn’t all about me. It’s about dairy farmers who work hard. I wanted to share their excellence at producing a high-quality product. The crown is truly about them.”
After her reign is over, Kyllo will return to college this fall, attending Rochester Community and Technical College to work on her public relations degree. She hopes to have a career one day working with a non-profit organization.
The Princess Kay program
Judging for the 67th Princess Kay will take place Aug. 10-12. Princess Kay candidates are judged on their general knowledge of the dairy industry, communication skills and enthusiasm for dairy. Midwest Dairy sponsors the Princess Kay of the Milky Way program, which is funded by dairy farmers through their promotion checkoff.
To learn more about the Princess Kay of the Milky Way program, visit MidwestDairy.com.
You can learn more about the 10 candidates online.
To view the livestream of the Aug. 12 coronation ceremony and to view the butter sculpting that follows, visit the Princess Kay Facebook page.