9/29/2012 7:00 AM
By Anne Harnish Food and Family Features Editor
CAMP HILL, Pa. — With verve and creativity, Bradford County’s two-time dairy princess, Maria Jo Noble, won the state title at the 56th Pennsylvania Dairy Princess Coronation, held last Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Radison Camp Hill Hotel in Camp Hill, Pa. The dramatic evening featured young women from the furthest corners of the state, gathering together in sparkling ballgowns on stage to learn the results from several days of judging of their performances, speeches and dairy knowledge.
“They’ve had two-and-a-half grueling days,” said Janet Harding, longtime board member of the Pennsylvania Dairy Princess and Promotion Services, as she spoke to the crowd gathered to watch the events. The dairy princesses, crowned in their counties earlier in the summer, already had three-and-a-half months of dairy promotion experience locally, in addition to a July seminar at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pa., where they learned about the range of dairy products and how to talk to the public about them.
Maria Jo Noble, who had competed in the state pageant two years earlier, when she was the 2010-2011 Bradford County dairy princess, this year raked in top rankings for her presentation about “reviving aliens on Planet Lack-of-Dairy” with “emergency dairy” equipment. She also won first-place prizes in the radio spot and speech competitions.
“It was overwhelming,” Noble said about the evening’s announcement. “But I’m really excited to promote the dairy industry.”
Winning the role of First Alternate Pennsylvania Dairy Princess was Centre County’s Heather Wasson. Wasson won second place in the presentation competition and honorable mentions in the speech and poster competitions.
Coronated as the Second Alternate Pennsylvania Dairy Princess was Susquehanna County’s Callie Curley. The 16-year-old junior in high school said she is “still in shock,” after getting the exciting news. “I never imagined I’d be one of the girls picked,” she said, “but I look forward to serving as a dairy princess for the state.”
Noble is a busy 18-year-old. “I’m a farm hand,” she said about working on her family’s dairy farm which has milked a herd of registered Jerseys since the 1880s (she is the eighth generation). She milks cows, feeds calves, cleans barns and anything else that needs to be done on the farm.
“You could say I do everything,” she laughed.
She is also very active in FFA and 4-H, including taking part recently in the Junior Dairy Leaders program at Cornell University in New York. The program teaches young people many different aspects of the dairy industry.
Wasson also comes from a strong family dairy tradition. Her twin sister promotes dairy in the county and her older sisters have served as dairy princesses as well, including her sister Krystal, who was 2009-2010 state dairy princess, and Nicole, who was a 2008-2009 state alternate. Besides showing and working with dairy animals, Wasson is active in school sports, FFA and the Pennsylvania Junior Holstein Association.
Curley’s connection to dairy is through her grandfather’s farm near her home. She owns milking cows and keeps them on his property, and she keeps her young stock on another dairy farm nearby. She is a member of the dairy quiz bowl team and dairy judging team in her county. She also writes for her school newspaper and is an officer in the Future Business Leaders program.
“Learning about things outside of my county and across the state will be very exciting,” Curley said. “I am looking forward to expanding my impact on consumers and educating them about dairy.”
The other four princesses included in the top seven finalists were Mackenna Bagley, Sullivan County; Carly Foose, Lancaster County; Brianna Smarkusky, Wyoming-Lackawanna Counties; and Leah Hershberger, Bedford County.
A new competition included at the pageant this year was the dairy knowledge component. This year’s winners included first-place winner Amber Gabel, Perry County; runner-up Darla Romberger, Schuylkill County; and honorable mentions Leah Hershberger, Bedford County; Olivia Mullen, Cambria County; and Tiffany Pheasant, Blair County.
With themes like “happy cows are not found just in California, they’re in Pennsylvania too,” and a focus on the importance of dairy products nutritionally and economically, all the dairy princesses spoke to the impact of the dairy industry in the state.
In addition to Noble and Wasson, the presentation winners included honorable mentions Royell Bashore, Lebanon County; Megan Alexander, Crawford County; and Amber Gabel, Perry County.
The other speech winners were runner-up Mackenna Bagley, Sullivan County, and honorable mentions Leah Hershberger, Bedford County; and Carly Foose, Lancaster County.
The radio spot winners included runner-up Leah Hershberger and honorable mentions Royell Bashore, Lebanon County; Amanda Fisher, Mifflin County, and honorable mention Kayci Johns, Berks County.
Mackenna Bagley also won the scrapbook contest. Royell Bashore of Lebanon County was nominated for the Miss Congeniality award by the other dairy princesses.
The Tina Schultz award went to last year’s state princess, Gabrielle Murphy, of York County, Pa., for her tireless promotion of the dairy industry.
“She hit the ground running. She promoted dairy all the time,” said Jessica Armacost, director of PDPPS. “She spoke to more than 14,000 people (this year).”
As last year’s princesses — Murphy, Alternate Dairy Princesses Deidre Bollinger and Courtney Brant — said goodbye, they had a bit of advice for the upcoming dairy court.
“Wear comfortable shoes!” Deidre said. “And stay on top of things.”
Gabby added, “Promote from your heart. Do it for the farmers. Be a voice and share your stories for the farmers who can’t.”
As for dairy promotion this year, Noble said: “Dairy is near and dear to my heart. ... If I could be a dairy princess as a full-time job, I would be.” With words like these, it’s clear that in Noble, the dairy industry has chosen a spokesperson who will accomplish her mission.