Anna Euerle has spent all 19 years of her life in the dairy industry.
From being born the daughter of Joan and Vaughn Euerle, who own and operate a rural Litchfield dairy farm, to studying agribusiness with a dairy emphasis at Ridgewater College last year, she’s been immersed in the industry.
Given that resume, maybe it should be no surprise that Euerle aspired to be Princess Kay of the Milky Way — Minnesota’s official dairy ambassador.
And on the evening of Aug. 25, aspiration became reality at the Minnesota State Fair.
“You know, this has been a dream of mine for quite a while now,” Euerle said during a telephone interview Saturday. “So when I was crowned, I was just full of pride that this was something I was able to accomplish, to be able to represent Minnesota’s dairy community.”
Euerle was one of 10 finalists from around the state competing to be Princess Kay. The princesses were judged based on their knowledge of the dairy industry, communication skills and enthusiasm.
Though she knows the industry and has developed strong communication skills through involvement in FFA throughout high school, Euerle said the judging process was tough.
“It wasn’t grueling, it’s just the nerves,” she said. “I was so nervous, especially when we arrived at coronation, and we were waiting backstage. I just, you know, whirlwind of emotions.”
In the 68th year of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition, Euerle became the first woman from Meeker County to wear the crown.
“It kind of feels like I just broke the glass ceiling for the county,” she said with a laugh. “You know, I think looking forward, as our county has future finalists, this will really kind of push them, because they’ve seen that somebody from our county can do it now. And it’s achievable. So it’s really special for me to be able to kind of be the encouraging factor for Meeker County going forward, but of course, yes, I’m so honored to be the very first.”
Euerle also felt a special sense of honor being crowned this year, because of its confluence with history.
One of her first duties as Princess Kay was to have her likeness carved from a 90-pound block of butter. For the past 50 years, Linda Christensen, a California-based sculptor, has handled the carving. Last year it was announced Christensen — who was unable to travel to Minnesota to do the carvings — would retire after sculpting Princess Kay this year. And her replacement would be Litchfield artist Gerry Kulzer.
“To be crowned this year, when it’s Linda Christensen’s last year sculpting, then to be able to welcome Gerry Kulzer … into the butter booth, that was just so special,” Euerle said.
She sat in the refrigerated, glass-walled booth in the dairy barn at the State Fair for about 10 hours Thursday and Friday, watching as Christensen transformed the block of butter into Euerle’s likeness. Throughout that time, Euerle said, she and Christensen were joined in the booth by various media from around the state. The experience gave her the opportunity to learn even more about Christensen’s half-century of butter sculpting.
“She’s just such a phenomenal woman, and to be her last (Princess Kay) sculpture is truly an honor,” Euerle said. “You know, that butterhead is going to be a piece of history. That was very cool.
“And of course, (Friday) night we had her retirement ceremony, where I actually got to witness her passing over the sculpting knife to Litchfield’s own Jerry Kulzer, and as I speak right now, he’s carving his very first finalist of the year,” she added. “That’s just been so fun to see. It’s kind of the cherry on top of the entire experience.”
Of course, the entire experience will grow over the next 12 months as Euerle travels the state to promote — and educate people about — the dairy industry. It begins with 12 days at the State Fair, where she will be kept busy with a variety of activities. One of them was judging a butter sculpting contest Saturday, where entries included an ice cream cone, a gallon of milk, a cat, cow and dragon.
The year ahead will bring much more.
“It is a very busy engagement schedule,” Euerle said. “I’ll be doing a multitude of things, from classroom visits to different farm visits. So she (Princess Kay) does quite a bit of things across a broad spectrum. I’m really excited to get started for a year and just do some different things. It’ll probably be crazy, but I’m ready for it.”
That, Eurele has proven throughout a jam-packed high school and early college career. She served a year as reporter on the state FFA officer team during her freshman year at Ridgewater College. This past summer, she has worked at three area dairy farms while serving as a Meeker County dairy princess and preparing for the Princess Kay competition.
In addition to helping out on her parents’ farm, Euerle worked at Corstar Farm in Manannah, a 30-cow dairy where she also owns a couple of cows in partnership with Cory and Kristen Salzl. One of those cows was shown at the State Fair Saturday, so even though Euerle’s Princess Kay duties wouldn’t allow her to show the animal, she did go down to watch the show.
Euerle also has served an internship at Ru-be Dairy, a 600-cow operation south of Grove City.
The work has kept her busy, to be sure, but it also offered a glimpse at the diversity of dairy farms.
“To be able to work with three different farm sizes was so unique,” Euerle said. “I definitely referenced that in my judging, and I’ve been referencing that so far as I’ve gotten to visit with different individuals. It’s just so fun to share, you know, how farms work, because there’s lots of misconceptions about farm size and how that varies the treatment of animals. But from farm to farm, what I’ve noticed this summer is that farmers care, whether it’s 600 cows or 30 cows.”
It’s a message she’s eager to share as Princess Kay — and, she hopes, as she pursues a career in the dairy industry after college. Her long-term goal is to work as a milk inspector for USDA in Minnesota.
“Dairy farmers are beyond passionate for what they do,” Euerle said. “I’ve never met a more hard-working group of individuals. They are up and at ‘em 365 days a year, 24/7. To have that kind of passion for your job is just phenomenal.”
It’s an enthusiasm Euerle also seems ready to share herself during the next year as dairy royalty.