6/9/2012 7:00 AM
By Carolyn N. Moyer Northern Pa. Correspondent
TROY, Pa. — Dairy promotion is not just about a sparkling crown and a silky banner, but about changed lives and spreading the message of milk’s goodness, compliments of the hard work of our nation’s dairy farmers. Last weekend when Bradford County, Pa., celebrated 50 years of dairy princess pageants, farmers, former royalty and community members came out on June 2 to cheer for dairy.
In this area, where dairying has traditionally been the largest sector of the agricultural economy. Bradford has always encouraged participation and hard work from its dairy princess and her court. At last Saturday’s pageant, Maria Jo Noble, of Gillett, Pa., was chosen to bear the title of 2012 Bradford County dairy princess while Cassie Bennett, of Monroeton, Pa., was selected to serve as first alternate and Aerotine MacWhinnie, also of Gillett, was chosen to serve as the second alternate.
Rounding out the dairy promotion team are three dairy maids, Courtney Bennett, Brittney Davis and Abbey MacWhinnie, and 10 dairy misses. The dairy misses are Sela Beeman, Reagan Braund, Emilie Cole, Jenna Harnish, Katie Lackey, Meredith Cole, Addie MacBride, Lexi Harnish, Taylor Marshall and Courtnie Hoffman.
Each girl will travel throughout the county visiting schools, speaking at farm meetings, riding in parades and celebrating all things dairy, just like so many members of the dairy royalty who have served throughout the years.
To remember the past and look forward to the future, many of the former Bradford County princesses were celebrated at the event.
Bradford County’s first dairy representative, the late Marilyn Ballard Packard, was represented at the festivities by her three children, Terri, who was a princess in 1988, David, and Amy, who served as an alternate princess. On display at the festival was Packard’s crown, banner, scrapbook and a set of gloves that she wore at the pageant.
Cheryl Brister Mead served as the Area 13 Dairy Representative in 1965. She fondly remembers her time as a princess but also recognizes the changes &tstr;most notably the shift from area representatives to county princesses.
“The girls do much more now,” she said as she explained that her granddaughter currently serves as the Tioga County, N.Y., dairy princess.
Mead has continued to be involved in the dairy industry, milking 400 cows on her family’s 1,000-acre farm.
“I love it, and I always have,” Mead said.
Trudy Braund Sheeley, the Bradford County alternate princess in 1974, has stayed in the dairy industry and now has grandchildren involved in the program. What she remembers is the number of contestants that were competing for one of the top three positions.
“We had 12 contestants that year,” Sheeley said, “But we all had a lot of fun and we met a lot of girls.”
In 1981, Jean Sheeley Lindsey was crowned the Bradford County dairy princess from a field of nine contestants and remembers it as being a “fast, great year.”
Her reign, however, had a tinge of sadness because the woman who encouraged her to run for the title, Linda B. Hulslander, died during Lindsey’s reign.
“Because of her, I kept striving to be a little bit better and to go beyond what was expected of me. She represented so much of what I’ve tried to make a priority in my life: God, family and a wholesome lifestyle,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey also cherishes the time that she had with her father during the year as he served as her chaperone to most of the events that she attended.
“He was killed in a farm accident 16 years ago, and I really cherish those memories that we shared,” said Lindsey.
Robin Thomas Degenfelder served as an alternate princess in 1990 and continues to promote dairy to this day, something that she got to do a lot as member of the dairy royalty of Bradford County.
“I loved the interaction with people,” Degenfelder said. “I loved meeting people and educating people.”
Degenfelder now milks 90 cows with her husband in Cattaraugus, N.Y.
Robin Wilbur Huizinga, the 1991 princess who was honored to serve as the state dairy princess still exudes the enthusiasm of promoting dairy and agriculture that she had as a teen. Although she and her husband no longer farm, she still feels it is important to tell the dairy story.
“I feel it is an important part of life to make sure people understand (farming),” Huizinga said. “To me, people don’t know where their food comes from.”
When asked to tell about something in her life that is unique, Huizinga always tells the same story about her work as a dairy princess and the fact that her image was sculpted in butter for the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
“When we go to the shows, we always have to look at the butter sculpture and I tell people that I was part of an 800-pound butter sculpture,” said Huizinga, “They called it Beauty and the Butter.’ ”
Jodi Colton Vogel served as the Bradford County dairy princess in 1995. She, too, remembers her time of service fondly.
“It was a good year,” she said. “I loved how they taught seminar and how they really prepared you with social skills. They taught us how to be ladies, and that is something that I’ve carried on through my life.”
Robin Wilson Kingsley, the 1996 princess also enjoyed her time in the spotlight and was glad to have had that experience. Throughout her life, she has called on her public speaking ability which was honed as a dairy princess. She and her husband operate a dairy farm and are doing their part in keeping the dairy industry alive in Bradford County.
Michala Kuhlman, the outgoing 2011-2012 dairy princess, thoroughly enjoyed her year in service to the dairy farmers of Bradford County and especially remembers her very first promotion.
“We did a promotion with 400 first-graders right after I was crowned,” Kuhlman said.
She and her alternate, Marilyce Young, agreed that the year flew by fast and that they both grew personally.
Maria Noble, who served as the 2010 dairy princess decided to run for the title once more to stay involved in dairy promotion.
“I really missed it (being involved),” Noble said.
For current dairy princess coordinator, Erin Cole, the experience of seeing so much former dairy royalty was an eye-opening experience.
“At the pageant we had 34 past royalty who we introduced as they came up on stage for a wonderful picture,” Cole said. “We had the alternate princess from 1963 in attendance. For me it was really neat to see all these women on stage. I am not from this area, so for women that I know in the community, it was neat to see them, as I was unaware they were dairy princesses in the past. It just truly says a lot about the program where it is today and where it has come from and all the families it has touched.
Throughout the weekend’s festivities, 45 members of the Bradford County dairy princess program participated. Hannah Jackson, of Columbia Cross Roads, was given the first Bradford County Promotion Board scholarship. Awards were also given to Steward Rosengrant, Anita Whipple and William Swingle for their years of service to the Bradford County promotion program.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture George Greig was on hand to congratulate Bradford County for its years of dairy promotion. He thanked all of those involved and commented that the dairy princess program is more than a pageant.
“It is a leadership program,” he said.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you were the princess, an alternate, a dairy maid or dairy miss, or even the parent of a member of the royalty team. In Bradford County, you are a celebrated part of the history of dairying.