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The newly crowned Pennsylvania dairy promotion team, from left, are Kelly Bliss, first alternate state dairy princess, state dairy princess Mikayla Davis, and second alternate state dairy princess Crystal Bomgardner.

Sporting a softball uniform and displaying a ballfield layout on a board, Mikayla Davis batted out facts last Saturday about how milk compares to a ball game, with a “team” of vital nutrients all “playing a part for the win.”

Her peppy, dairy-data presentation was one of four selected to be shared with the audience during the Pennsylvania state dairy princess pageant, held Sept. 25 at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

As the pageant finale, Davis was crowned the 2021-2022 Pennsylvania state dairy princess, a sparkling tiara replacing her earlier baseball cap.

Davis, 20, is the daughter of Mike and Angie Davis, of Leesport, Pennsylvania. She is a junior at Penn State, majoring in ag-business management, and a 2019 graduate of Schuylkill Valley High School. She is also employed as an office assistant at the Leesport Farmers Market.

The Davis family operates a small farm where Mikayla Davis helps to raise Holstein heifers for local and state competitions, along with her three younger siblings, Tanner, Alexa and Bryce. Mikayla is active with her family in the Mohrsville Church of the Brethren and the Grange. She also is a past member of the Northern Berks 4-H dairy club.

During the pre-pageant judging in September, Davis earned top honors in the scrapbook, poster, radio spot and dairy knowledge competitions and was named dairy presentation runner-up.

“As I begin my journey as the Pennsylvania state dairy princess, my hope is to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers,” Davis said on the phone after the event. “I want the public to know that farmers take great care of their land and animals, and are proud to provide us with wholesome, nutritious milk.”

“I also hope to inspire young girls in agriculture to follow their passion and chase their dreams. I am excited for the year ahead and the opportunities that my team and I (will) experience,” she added.

Alternates and County Princesses 

Also crowned at the pageant was the first alternate Pennsylvania state princess, Kelly Bliss, representing Huntingdon County dairy.

Bliss, 16, is the daughter of Tim and Jacquita Bliss, of Huntingdon. The family operates Bliss dairy, where they raise Jersey dairy cattle, Angus beef cattle and maintain a flock of Cheviot sheep. Kelly Bliss has four older sisters, including her twin, Shelly.

A junior at Mount Union Area High School, Kelly’s activities include membership in the National Honor Society, secretary of the school chapter of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and flutist in the school band. She is a member of the Mill Creek Baptist Church and the Trough Creek Volunteer Fire Co.

In her speech presentation shared with the pageant audience, Bliss addressed climate change and emphasized numerous steps that farmers are taking to tackle the issue, including conservation tillage, adapting green energy and biofuel usage, and becoming more conscious of the use of chemical fertilizers.

Bliss was named the runner-up in speech and dairy promotion knowledge competitions during earlier judging, and she received honorable mentions for her radio spot, presentation and display poster.

In addition, Crystal Bomgardner, representing Lebanon County, was crowned the second alternate Pennsylvania state dairy princess.

The 17-year-old is the daughter of Corwin and Tara Bomgardner, Jonestown, Pennsylvania, and has three brothers and five sisters. A home-schooled student, she also attends Northern Lebanon High School for ag science classes, is president of the Northern Lebanon FFA, plays on the school’s basketball team, and also plays with Team Pennsylvania.

Crystal Bomgardner owns one Holstein cow and a spring calf, and houses them at her grandparents’ farm. She works as a lifeguard at Hersheypark, plays keyboard and sings on the worship team at Oak youth group, and is a member of Manada Gap Full Gospel Mission.

Tapping into her sports experience, Bomgardner’s speech focused on the benefits for athletes to refuel with chocolate milk. She emphasized that milk is a nutritional powerhouse and a valuable energy recovery drink.

Crystal took top honors in both the speech and presentation competitions, and was the runner-up in the scrapbook and radio spot pre-pageant judging.

Four other Pennsylvania county princesses were selected as pageant finalists. They are Shawna Weaver, 18, from Howard, Centre County, the daughter of Emilie and Linda Weaver and Brenda and Bruce Fritts; Karissa Petruso, 16, from Conneaut Lake, Crawford County, daughter of Sam and Krista Petruso; Jill Palmer, 22, from Warfordsburg, Fulton County, daughter of Misti and Ronald Bishop; and Kaitlyn Stolzfus, 17, from Berlin, Somerset County, daughter of Duane and Andrea Stolzfus.

Jill Palmer, the Fulton County dairy princess, received the prestigious Miss Congeniality award, voted on by the princess contestants themselves.

Palmer attends the University of Maryland at College Park, majoring in agriculture Extension and education, with hopes of becoming an ag teacher. A dedicated volunteer in various activities and a cattle showing enthusiast, Palmer is a Fulton County 4-H dairy club leader, past county fair queen and 2016-2017 state FFA reporter.

Further Awards

The Tina Shultz memorial award is presented annually to a county princess for exemplary work during her reign. That honor this year went to Katerina Coffman, the 2020-2021 Huntingdon County dairy princess, whose extensive county activities included helping to provide milk in area schools and food programs.

Also presented annually at the event is the Jan Harding Ruslavage perseverance award, which recognizes the county princess with the highest percentage of participation in her county activities. This year’s winner, Katelyn Stringer, the 2020-2021 Lycoming County dairy princess, took part in 97% of scheduled promotions. Alongside her crowded schedule, she also compiled and sold a cookbook to help raise funds to assist an injured dairy farmer in her area.

Five outstanding participants in each of the pre-pageant judging categories were recognized during the program. In the speech division, the winner was Bomgardner, runner-up was Bliss, and honorable mentions were Jill Palmer, Shawna Weaver and Davis.

The scrapbook winner was Davis, with Bomgardner as runner- up, and honorable mentions were Shawna Weaver, Kaitlyn Stolzfus and Katelyn Stringer.

The best radio spot was presented by Davis, the runner-up was Bomgardner, and honorable mentions were Bliss, Charity Wampole and Madison Benfer.

Bomgardner gave the winning dairy presentation, with Davis as the runner-up, and Karissa Petruso, Bliss and Kaitlyn Stolzfus as the honorable mentions.

In the poster display, Davis was the winner, Rachel Hollinger was the runner-up, and Bliss, Jill Palmer and Madison Roberts were honorable mentions.

Davis finished first in dairy promotion knowledge, with Bliss the runner-up and honorable mentions given to Charity Wampole, Sara Lang and Kaitlyn Stolzfus.

Shawna Weaver submitted the winning royal recipe, over runner-up Madison Roberts, and honorable mentions went to Madison Benfer, Tahlea Spencer and Rachel Hollinger.

Retiring director Roberta Dixon was recognized during the program for her 21 years of service on the Pennsylvania Dairy Princess and Promotion Services board. She was honored for her leadership and guidance to young dairy women over her two decades of working with the princess program.

The event’s pageant judges were: Jill Hoover, USDA dairy division; Caitlin Patrick, Maple Dell Farms, Damascus, Maryland; and Brooks Long, Longs Delight farm and dairy store, Williamsport, Maryland.

The scrapbook and radio spot judges were Amy Mearkle, Altoona, and Carol Shaulis, Somerset.

The presentation and poster judges were Katie Dotterer, Gettysburg, Denise Timmons, Greencastle, and Harold Shaulis, Somerset.

The judges for the category of dairy promotion knowledge were Melissa Norman, Clear_eld, and Eva Strang, Johnstown.

The emcee for the pageant was Kirk Sattazahn.

Join state royalty from across the US for a special milk toast that spreads from coast to coast, celebrating World Milk Day and the Start of June is Dairy Month.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.

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