Frazee girl may not have taken top honors, but she'll still find buttery goodness at fair
Most Minnesota State Fair visitors smile, but Laura Olson beamed.
Olson stood outside a glass-enclosed, refrigerated booth containing one of her three daughters and a sculptor. It was a first-day-of-the-fair tradition Thursday, sculpting in a 90-pound butter block the likeness of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
For the Olsons, the fair itself is a tradition. It was 33 years ago Thursday that Laura Olson, a native of Chicago's South Side, at her first Minnesota fair met "a bachelor farmer from Hutchinson." The two married, and Loren and Laura Olson raised three daughters and a son, all deeply involved in the dairy business.
Elizabeth Olson, 18, became the second Olson girl to win the Princess Kay contest -- becoming the Minnesota dairy industry's top ambassador -- and the third daughter to have her likeness carved in butter as a princess finalist.
No other family has produced two Princess Kays in the event's 56-year history.
The new princess, who will travel promoting the dairy industry, sat in the only heavy coat to be found on the fairgrounds and said that Thursday was a dream come true. "I have been preparing for this, whether or not I knew I was, since I showed my first calf."
She and her family have deep roots in dairy and fairs. Many in the family will be at the fair all 12 days.
Sarah Olson won the princess contest in 2002, and Lana Olson was a 2005 finalist.
"Uniquely for our family, Princess Kay is such a celebration at the State Fair," Lana Olson said.
The new princess loves fairs so much that her goal is to attend 100 county fairs around the country by the time she is 100.
Princess Kay, like other finalists, takes every opportunity to promote the dairy industry, even in the 40-degree cooler.
"For me, it is what my family has done for over 100 years," she said. "And I am anxious to show that. I know dairy farmers cannot have media interviews 10 times a day. Or they can't visit with schoolchildren three or four times a week."
The State Fair tradition happens each of the 12 days of the event when Linda Christensen carves the likeness of the 12 princess finalists in blocks of butter, which the contestants get to keep. That means Laura Olson needs to make room for another "butter head" when the 2009 fair ends on Labor Day.
Not a problem, she said, watching Christensen chip away the first pieces of butter to begin to form Elizabeth's sculpture.
"I just hope I remember every minute," she said.
Promoting on campus
Renae Schaefer represents dairy farmers in a tough climate, a university campus.
As a Bemidji State University junior, the Frazee resident discovered fellow students are not always comfortable drinking milk or eating dairy products. She set out to change that. Some fear its safety after debates about hormones, antibiotics and other things some people fear in milk.
"A lot of college students do not understand or know the whole story of how that milk product gets to their refrigerator," Schaefer said.
But once she talks to them, many come around.
"I have seen a little difference with the fellow employees who work with me," she said. "I have seen more of them bringing in milk to put in the refrigerator."
The 20-year-old Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist plans to be a teacher, and hopes to use dairy farm examples to teach. "I am going to put that in every single lesson."