9/28/2013 7:00 AM
By Anne Harnish Food and Family Features Editor
CAMP HILL, Pa. — With a special goodbye celebration and a pre-banquet milk toast, the drama of the 57th annual Pennsylvania Dairy Princess pageant began in the early evening on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center in Camp Hill, Pa. Thirty-six dairy princess contestants, each from a county in Pennsylvania, strode onto a dramatically lit stage and spoke to the hardworking soul of the state's dairy farmers while voicing appeals to the public to learn about where food comes from.
"Farmers really do work hard, no matter what the weather or other conditions may be," said 18-year-old Lu-Anne Antisdel, of Rome, Bradford County, Pa. Antisdel won the title at the end of the three-day judging period and was crowned as the new Pennsylvania dairy princess at Saturday’s pageant.
Antisdel, whose mom is a large animal vet, helps her dad and grandmother on the family’s dairy farm. The 700-acre farm milks 120 Holsteins twice a day and grows much of its own feed crops.
“I am assigned to do whatever Dad wants done,” said Antisdel, about her role at the farm. She feeds the cows and calves, does milkings, fixes fence, cleans the barn and runs for parts. She has served as a dairy maid and a dairy ambassador in the past.
Antisdel just graduated from high school and took a year off to promote dairy in the state. She then plans to get a doctorate in physical therapy, which takes six years of schooling, and palns to attend Slippery Rock University the following year.
During the three-day competition that culminated in Saturday's pageant, contestants were judged on speaking skills, dairy industry knowledge, and poise and personality. Each contestant prepared a speech, presentation, radio spot and poster display promoting milk and dairy products; submitted a scrapbook of promotion activities; took a dairy industry knowledge quiz; and participated in an interview with a panel of four judges.
"I think it's important to be a dairy farmer," said Brooke George, the newly coronated second alternate Pennsylvania dairy princess, in an interview, "and I don't think many people know what (farmers) actually do for the land. … People don't understand where milk and meat come from."
George, 16, who is starting her junior year of high school in Jackson Center, Mercer County, Pa., works part time at her 120-acre family farm, George's Creekside Dairy. In 1987, her mom also was a county dairy princess and even made it to the top seven finalists in the state competition. George has been involved in dairy promotion since she was 5 years old, but this was her first year as county dairy princess.
"Other kids can do whatever they want, but living on a farm teaches you a lot of responsibility," she said. Besides farming, George has many other interests, such as weight lifting, track, cheerleading and 4-H.
George's family milks its 150 Holstein and Guernsey cows three times a day, and she helps out and also feeds calves and heifers regularly.
As for her role as alternate dairy princess this year, "I'm excited to become a better speaker," George added. "I want to get the word out to people."
It has been 12 years since Huntingdon County had a state-level dairy princess, but this year the county’s Danielle Varner was coronated as first alternate Pennsylvania dairy princess. Varner has worked parttime at her uncle and grandfather’s dairy farm in Shirleysburg, Pa., and has been showing and judging cows for a number of years. She got her first cow in the fifth grade, she said, and her herd has expanded to 13 cows total. She is very active in FFA as well as karate, FBLA and many other activities.
“It’s going to be a jam-packed year,” said the high school junior, “I’m a little worried about keeping up with school. But it’s going to be fun!”
One of Varner’s goals for her year serving as dairy royalty is to get more breakfasts in schools and to get the media to show positive views of agriculture and dairy farming.
In addition to Antisdel, Varner and George, four other finalists were chosen including Mikayla Gates, Bedford County, runner-up in the presentation competition and dairy knowledge competition, and honorable mention in speech and scrapbook competition; Halee Wasson, Centre County, runner-up in the speech competition and honorable mention in dairy knowledge, poster and radio spot competition; Kayla Hartung, Franklin County; and Erin Wismer, Montgomery County, winner of the speech and dairy knowledge competitions.
The Miss Congeniality award, voted on by the other contestants, was presented to Cumberland County's Abbie Hamilton.
The radio spot winner and scrapbook honorable mention went to Schuylkill County's Madeline Rae Daubert.
Sullivan County's Seriana Nitcznski won the new digital scrapbook contest.
Bucks County's Nicole Ender won the presentation competition and received honorable mentions in the dairy knowledge and poster contests.
Other category finalists were: Butler County's Miranda Lutz, runner up in poster and honorable mention in radio spot competition; Cambria County's Dawn Craft, runner up in radio spot and honorable mention in presentation competition; Somerset County's Alyssa Weigle, honorable mention in scrapbook competition; Warren County's Rachel Campbell, honorable mention in presentation competition; and Washington County's Emily Rush, honorable mention in poster and presentation competition.
At the pageant, William C. Nichol, who started the dairy promotion program, announced a new award, given to outgoing state princess Maria Jo Noble, that includes a $1,000 scholarship. Noble was also honored with the Tina M. Shultz Award, which recognizes the princess who has done the most effective job of serving as dairy princess.