Calissa Lubben of rural Edgerton is a finalist in the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest to represent the state’s dairy farmers. As the Rock-Pipestone County Dairy Princess she awarded ribbons and handed out ice cream at local county fairs including the Rock County Fair in late July.Rock-Pipestone County Dairy Princess Calissa Lubben entered the ring to show a young heifer during the state fair line-up selection at the Rock County Fair on July 26.

Rock-Pipestone County Dairy Princess finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way crown

Today marks the opening of the 2018 Minnesota State Fair and the fulfillment of Calissa Lubben’s dream to become a finalist for the state’s most visible dairy industry spokesman.

The 65th annual Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest was conducted on the eve of Minnesota’s Great Get-Together with the crowned princess starting her yearlong reign today.

For 19-year-old Lubben, being the local dairy princess was an aspiration while, as a young girl, she watched her sister Tina talk about the health benefits of milk and how milk is produced on the farm.

“Now that the dream has come true, it’s becoming even more of a dream,” she said.

Lubben was one of 12 county dairy princesses selected out of a field of 65 contestants to reach the finals.

The top selection serves as the state’s goodwill ambassador for the dairy industry until next year’s coronation. This year’s coronation was conducted at 8 p.m. Wednesday, after the Star Herald went to press.

“Overall I am super excited,” she said last week. “I represent two counties but in general I represent southwest Minnesota. We don’t get a lot of (dairy) recognition in this part of the state so I feel honored to be the representative.”

In March the Rock and Pipestone counties dairy associations decided to name a joint-county princess due to the small number of interested contestants in each county.

Lubben has been the local goodwill dairy ambassador since she was first selected in 2015.

This year, however, is the last time Lubben can hold the title of dairy princess. Once a princess is named a finalist for the state title, she’s no longer eligible for the title again.

Lubben and the 11 other finalists spent Monday and Tuesday giving prepared and spontaneous speeches to three judges to decide who best represents the industry.

“It’s a lot of interviewing and a lot of talking,” Lubben said.

The daughter of Cal and Char Lubben of rural Edgerton had additional help preparing for the interview finals.

Sister-in-law Morgan Lubben was also a finalist in the Princess Kay contest. She’s helped Calissa perfect her 6- to 8-minute prepared speech.

“I can write but she makes it sound better and makes every word count,” Calissa said.

Finalists directed their prepared speeches to mothers of young children who are part of a mom’s club. Lubben said her speech likens her experience raising dairy calves to that of raising children.

Both good nutrition, diligent care and pride go into raising productive calves as well as future citizens.

“I just hope to see them grow up to be healthy heifers and individuals,” she said.

Lubben drew on personal experience growing up on the family’s 350-cow dairy farm in northeastern Battle Plain Township in Rock County.

She also worked as a calf herdsman with Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa, while she studied dairy production and ag business/marketing. Lubben is currently a sophomore at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Lubben is the first dairy princess from Rock County to be a finalist in the Princess Kay contest since it changed from a regional contest to a statewide contest about 18 years ago, according to contest coordinator Janet Bremer.

She said the program eliminated the regional contests because some counties in some of the regions had no contestants while other counties had more than one. Every county princess now competes for a spot in the final 12 instead of a single regional winner.

“That’s why you can see finalists from the same county,” Bremer said.

Bremer also coordinates the 60 to 80 guest appearances of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way throughout the year.

As good will ambassador, the princess brings the dairy industry to life through public talks and education classroom visits as representative of the state’s nearly 3,500 dairy farmers.

As a finalist, Lubben will also have the likeness of her head carved in a 90-pound block of butter, which she keeps after the state fair ends.

“It’s such an unusual experience,” Bremer said.

Lubben said she is prepared to sit in a revolving cooler for six to eight hours as the artist completes the carving. Her scheduled time in the cooler is on Labor Day, the last day of the fair.

As a thank you to local supporters she plans to bake cookies from the sculpture scrapings, and a future sweet corn feed is planned for the actual sculpture as a thank you to supporters.

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