More than a sparkling crown
Little girls dream about wearing a sparkling crown and being a princess in a beautiful and exotic country.
For 21-year-old Meg Hintzen of Carlos, this dream is at the tip of her fingers. The only twist to the fairytale is that instead of ruling over a county, Hintzen hopes to be crowned the princess of dairy.
"Dairy has always been a huge part of my life - I was thrilled to have been chosen as one of the 12 Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalists," she noted.
But for Hintzen, being a princess isn't just about wearing the crown, it is also about educating people.
"A lot of people don't know much about the dairy industry. As Princess Kay I want to be able to teach people about it as well as tell my story," she said.
Growing up, she lived on a farm outside of Carlos where her family grew many crops including soybeans and corn, and also raised cows.
"When I was younger I did almost anything that was needed to be done on the farm, from cleaning out the barn to bottle feeding new-born calves," she recalled.
Hintzen continued her love for the industry even after graduating from Jefferson High School in Alexandria in 2009. She is attending the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, working on her major in animal science with an emphasis on dairy production.
This summer, she is preforming a grazing study at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris where she is testing how milk is affected at organic farms.
"I've always known that I would be in the dairy industry in one way, shape or form - Princess Kay is just one of those ways," she said. "I really want to make an impact and teach people what I know."
During May, Hintzen and the 80 or so other county princesses in Minnesota traveled to St. Joseph for a three-day event where the princesses did a mock interview, professional interview and gave a speech.
The candidates were judged on "communication skills, personality, general knowledge of the dairy industry and its products and their commitment to dairy promotion."
During the interviews, Hintzen was asked questions concerning the dairy industry and what she would do if crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
"I really enjoyed presenting my speech on Field Play 60," Hintzen said, explaining that this nationwide program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and complete at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. "It's so important to kids to drink milk and exercise."
Aside from teaching kids to stay healthy, Hintzen said she is also excited about teaching students about the industry itself.
"A lot of the kids in elementary school are three or four generations out of the farm and they don't understand where milk comes from," she noted. "They think that milk is just something that is made at the grocery. But milk comes from a cow, is sent to a factory, processed, packaged and then sent to the grocery - and kids should be taught that."
As a county dairy princess and Princess Kay finalist, Hintzen has volunteered at countless dairy events, from distributing milk to serving milkshakes.
While she will not know if she is Princess Kay until the crowning on August 23, a few days before the State Fair opens, she will still be able to participate in many of the Princess Kay activities if she is not crowned, including the long standing and most known tradition of Princess Kay - getting her head sculpted in butter.
"I am so excited to have my head carved out of butter," Hintzen exclaimed enthusiastically. "I can't help but laugh about that because when I was younger and at the State Fair my mother would always have me go watch the princesses get their heads carved out of butter and I always hoped that I would be able to do that someday, and now I do!"
Each carving takes about six to eight hours and has been sculpted by Linda Christensen for the past 40 years.
The 90-pound block of butter is carved in a walk-in, glass-walled refrigerator and is one of the most popular exhibits at the fair.
At the end of the fair, the princesses are able to take their butter sculptures home.
"I think I'll keep my head frozen for a few years, and then eat it later," Hintzen casually noted.
If crowned Princess Kay, Hintzen will have numerous media and public appearances during the 12 days of the fair and throughout the coming year on behalf of Minnesota dairy farmers.
"I really have no idea if I will be crowned queen or not, it really just depends what the judges are looking for. I am going to go into it and be myself and speak from my heart. Hopefully they like what they hear," noted Hintzen. "And if I'm not crowned Princess Kay this has still been such a privilege just being a finalist."