Herald JournalHerald Journal, Mar. 29, 2004

Memories of being a dairy princess

By Jody Anderson

Enjoying hot June days, waving at freckled kids from a convertible or a float in festive hometown parades, wearing formal gowns, gaining confidence through public speeches, making new friends, and feeling a sense of pride in their dairy farm heritage can only begin to describe the unique experience of being a McLeod County Dairy Association princess.

More than 50 of the 128 royalty from 1955-2004 will gather at the 50th anniversary coronation set for Saturday, April 3 at the Hutchinson Event Center.

Through the years, several local dairy farmers’ daughters have occupied this position – 11 young women from Winsted, and 11 young women from Lester Prairie.

Indeed, it would seem that in some cases, royal aspirations tend to run in the family, at least in local dairy farm families, since amongst the Winsted royalty, there are four princesses spanning two generations of the Fasching family, and one princess who married a Fasching.

Kristine (Fasching) Sherman, daughter of Ed Fasching of Winsted, was princess in 1985. Her nieces Kerri Fasching, Beth Rose Fasching, and Katie (Fasching) Quaas, served in 1993, 1995, and 1998 respectively.

Sara Donnay of Glencoe (1990), married Gerald Fasching and continues the dairy family tradition in Winsted.

Mavis (Weber) Mallak served in 1961, and encouraged her daughter, Wendy (Weber) Nowak, to participate in 1987. “I loved watching Wendy in the parades, reliving my own memories,” Mavis said.

Lester Prairie has also been represented by one half of a mother/daughter duo.

Gwen Malacek represented the town in 1971, while her daughter, Theresa (Rettman) Francis, served in 1994 while living in Hutchinson.

The Krone family, also from Lester Prairie, contributed to this family tradition with two daughters, Christy (Krone) Maessee in 1989, and Carla (Krone) Williams in 1991.

The obligations of being a dairy princess appear to have grown with time. The royalty of the ‘50s and ‘60s mostly recall being interviewed at a lunch, and serving ice cream at the local bank during June, which is dairy month.

Lana (Stapel) Felderman 1965, of Lester Prairie has fond memories of her reign. “I remember the dresses my mom sewed for me, the fabrics and what they looked like,” Felderman said.

Dairy princesses of the ‘70s and ‘80s fondly recall the many parades they attended, the questions they answered wrong during the interviews, and the funny situations that they experienced.

“My cousin lent us an Oldsmobile convertible,” said Teresa (Thompson) Quernemoen 1982, of Winsted. “The car overheated and we ended up riding on the hood and roof of a truck.”

Mary Jo (Schmalz) Mehrl 1977, of Lester Prairie commented, “You weren’t just a pretty face, you had to know about the dairy industry.”

The ‘90s brought radio interviews, public speaking engagements, and the awarding of ribbons in livestock competition and participation in a formal coronation banquet, with the new millennia ushering in a celebration of 50 years of dairy princess tradition.

The end of the 20th century has not been kind to all dairy farmers, however.

Although all of the women chosen to serve as royalty remembered their happy days on dairy farms, participation in 4-H projects, and pride in their agricultural backgrounds, few are actually living on dairy farms today.

Several noted that a small herd used to be 30 to 50 cows, but today a dairy farmer could not survive with the same size herd.

Many of those family farms were sold to larger operations. Their pride in their agricultural roots, however, has not disappeared.

Ra Von (Baird) Rasmussen 1988, of Winsted summed it up quite succinctly. “I did it for my grandfather and my father,” she stated, “We were fourth generation dairy farmers, it was what they spent their entire lives on and it was an honor to represent their lifestyles.”

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