Dairy royalty in the making

Finalists announced for the 71st Princess Kay competition


ST. PAUL, Minn. — On May 13, Midwest Dairy released the names of the 10 finalists in the running to be crowned this year’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way.

Candidates were selected during the annual May Leadership Event May 10-11 at the Delta Hotel in Minneapolis.

Each year, the event offers leadership workshops, networking and educational sessions for dairy princesses from across Minnesota in preparation for their service as goodwill ambassadors for dairy farming.

This is the 71st year of the competition, which is sponsored by Midwest Dairy and funded by dairy farmers through their promotion checkoff.

The current Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Emma Kuball from Rice County, met the finalists during the leadership event and posted a video on the Princess Kay Facebook page where she gave short introductions about each candidate.

Selena Corona of St. Joseph will represent Stearns County. Her parents are Ross Lemke and Kelly Corona, and Steve Corona.

Paige Gerads of Albany will represent Morrison County. Her parents are Jamie and Becky Gerads.

Katie Ketchum of Altura will represent Winona County. Her parents are Mike and Mary Ketchum.

Mackenzie Moline of St. Peter will represent Nicollet County. Her parents are Rob and Gail Moline.

Afton Nelson of Owatonna will represent Steele County. Her parents are Tim and Stacy Nelson.

Miranda Schroeder of Caledonia will represent Houston County. Her parents are Daniel and Sheila Schroeder.

Rachel Visser of Hutchinson will represent McLeod County. Her parents are Barry and Shannon Visser.

Katelyn Welgraven of Ruthton will represent Pipestone County. Her parents are Keith and Jeanna Welgraven.

Grace Woitalla of Avon will represent Stearns County. Her parents are Keith and Patty Woitalla.

McKenna Wright of Hutchinson will represent McLeod County. Her parents are Paul and Heather Wright.

The finalists are all connected to dairy farming but in a variety of ways. Some grew up on dairy farms. Others, like Nelson, came to the world of dairy via a different route.

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls student, majoring in dairy science and minoring in companion animals, was first introduced to dairy through an educational program in Steele County called Cow Camp. The program brought kids to the farm of Deb and Glen Johnson to learn about dairy.

“When I did Cow Camp, I fell in love with the dairy community,” Nelson said. “I quickly found a passion that I haven’t left since, and I was probably only 8 or 9 years old at the time. … Just being in the environment and being with the calves, I thought, ‘I could do this forever.’”

During the camp, the Johnsons introduced the attendees to various breeds of cows.

 “My first year at camp, there was a Brown Swiss named Honey, and I instantly fell in love with the Brown Swiss breed,” Nelson said.

She began leasing animals through 4-H, and she and her brother have owned Brown Swiss cattle together since 2016. The cattle are housed at a nearby farm in exchange for labor. Nelson and her brother help milk and do fieldwork at the site.

Now firmly embedded in the world of dairy, as well as serving as a Steele County dairy princess, Nelson hopes to reach out even more in the role of Princess Kay.

“I enjoy talking with community members, whether it’s young kids or people who are in the older generations and sharing the farm-to-table process,” Nelson said. “As far as now being a finalist, of course, the butter head is cool, but being able to represent Minnesota on a larger level would be great. Locally, I represent 13 farms whereas Princess Kay represents over 3,000 farms.”

Nelson said it is important to support dairy farmers.

“Unfortunately, as we know, the industry is kind of slimming down,” she said. “I want producers to know that there are still a lot of people who are extremely passionate about dairy.”

Unlike Nelson, Schroeder came to the world of dairy farming more traditionally. She is part of the fifth generation on her family’s farm near Caledonia.

“A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from, so being able to see the hard work that gets put into our farm and into the food that we raise is incredible,” Schroeder said. “I am so glad that we still have the farm in our family, and I hope it will be for generations to come.”

Schroeder wrapped up her second year at Minnesota State College Southeast where she is majoring in accounting with the hope of applying her degree in an agriculture-related sector. When helping on the farm, she said her favorite chore is bottle-feeding calves.

“Just seeing how adorable they are and knowing that I am raising the next producers on the farm is a real joy of mine — to be able to see the life from calf to cow,” Schroeder said. “I love doing it.”

For Schroeder, inspiration to compete for the Princess Kay title came in part from her older sister, Rebeckah Marschall, who now runs the farm with her dad, cousin and uncle. Marschall was a Princess Kay finalist in 2020.

 “(My sister) is what sparked my interest in everything,” Schroeder said. “She helped me gain the confidence to step out and do the Princess Kay program. … I watched her go through the program and become a finalist, and it has been a goal of mine to follow in her footsteps.”

Schroeder said her sister has cheered her on the whole way and has given advice.

“She told me, ‘Confidence is key and so is knowing exactly who you are,’” Schroeder said.

Helping to promote dairy, Schroeder said, is what most excites her about the dairy princess program.

“Being able to do that as Princess Kay would be amazing,” Schroeder said.

According to Midwest Dairy’s website, candidates are judged on knowledge of the dairy industry, communication skills and enthusiasm for promoting dairy.

In August, the finalists will compete for the role of Princess Kay, with the winner announced Wednesday evening before the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair. The 71st Princess Kay of the Milky Way will then spend the next year representing Minnesota’s dairy farmers. All finalists will have their likeness carved in butter during the fair.

Watch for upcoming articles in Dairy Star that will highlight each of the finalists. 


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