A young northwestern Minnesota woman received a chilly and warm reception Thursday, hours after receiving the coveted Princess Kay of the Milky Way crown.
The reception was warm for MarJenna McWilliam because Princess Kay candidates always rally around the winner.
It was chilly because she spent most of Thursday in a 40-degree rotating, glass-walled Minnesota State Fair refrigerator.
The 20-year-old Winger woman is the 60th Princess Kay, the state’s most visible dairy ambassador. Part of the tradition is for the winner to sit about six hours on the fair’s opening day in the refrigerated room built for artist Linda Christensen to sculpt the princess’s head out of a 90-pound butter block (and do the same for other Princess Kay finalists each of the fair’s remaining 11 days).
For the first several hours, Christensen worked with the butter head facing her, and McWilliam could not see the work. Hundreds of onlookers in the Dairy Building got sneak peeks at the butter face, but it wasn’t until after 1 p.m. that Christensen turned the sculpture around so the model could see it.
“It looks pretty cool,” McWilliam said, an appropriate comment given her refrigerated state.
After a brief afternoon break to appear in the fair parade with a sleeveless dress, McWilliam returned to the chill, wearing her winter coat in August.
Like for most Princess Kay contestants, her day in the cooler was a dream come true. The woman who has been at the fair every year of her life said she watched Christensen (now in her 42nd year of sculpting dairy royalty) turn butter into works of art “multiple times.”
McWilliam said she admired Christensen’s work over the years. “How could you not? The idea of getting a head carved in 90 pounds of butter is just an amazing idea.”
It is an honor few northwestern Minnesota women have known.
Princess Kay officials said records indicate that the last princess from north of Interstate 94 was Jennifer Kinnunen Schlauderaff of Wadena in 1998. Diane Schroeder Dunn was princess in 1958 when she lived in Polk County, where McWilliam lives.
Even rarer is for a Princess Kay to attend North Dakota State University. No one from the Fargo school has been the princess in the past 20 years and Princess Kay officials said no one recalls someone from there ever wearing the crown.
McWilliam has NDSU company at the fair. Katelyn Blackwelder, 20, of Chokio in Big Stone County and Sarah Paskewitz, 19, of Browerville in Todd County also attend NDSU and, as finalists, will see their likenesses also carved in butter -- and take them home when the fair ends.
Page 2 of 2 - Going to school in Fargo while representing Minnesota dairy is fine for McWilliam, she said, because she prefers to attend a school close to home. “It makes it easier to go home on the weekend to see the cows.”
Her parents, Bruce and LaVonne McWilliam, have reduced their dairy herd to eight cows, but the princess said that she would like to be able to keep cows once she graduates from NDSU and becomes an English teacher. “I cannot imagine my life not ever having a cow again.”
During her reign, McWilliam said, her goal is to deliver “a positive image” about dairy.
“I’m just hoping to get the point across in schools about how important dairy products are to their diets and getting across to their parents that dairy products are healthy for you and they are never something you should cut out of your diet,” she said.
Also, she plans to educate the public about “milk imitators,” products such as those made from soy beans and almonds. “They do not have the same essential ingredients and fortified calcium that milk does.”