Journeys: State Fair Royalty

Who better to talk about the State Fair than the princess of Minnesota’s Great Get-Together?

2017 Princess Kay Emily Annexstad and a butter sculpture at the State Fair. Photo courtesy Midwest Dairy.
The 2017 Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Emily Annexstad, and her butter sculpture at the 2017 State Fair. Courtesy Midwest Dairy.

Photo courtesy Midwest Dairy

At almost every community festival, you’ll see local royalty on parade floats, waving out to the people that line the streets, so it only makes sense that the biggest get-together of all in Minnesota—the State Fair—has its own princess. Princess Kay of the Milky Way is chosen from 12 finalists who are narrowed down from a group of almost 100 county dairy princesses. Among other qualifications, each candidate must either have grown up around or work in the dairy industry, which fits the 2017 Princess Kay, Emily Annexstad, to a T. 

Annexstad is the 2017 Princess Kay of the Milky Way, and after growing up on her parents’ dairy farm, it seemed like a natural step to compete for Princess Kay because of how much she loved helping out with the outreach her family already did. This past year, Annexstad has been balancing her studies at the University of Minnesota (she’s going for animal studies and agricultural communication and marketing) while visiting classrooms to talk to kids about the dairy industry, working with the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 health program, and going to events such as county fairs, breakfasts on the farms, and parades.

Following tradition, Annexstad was crowned the night before the State Fair, and on Aug. 22, she is going to be passing her crown on to the next Princess Kay. Before that happened, though, we chatted with her about some of her State Fair memories.

“When I was younger, my family would go to the State Fair at least one day every year, and I remember going to the Dairy Building and seeing the butter sculptures and dairy princesses and my mom saying to me, ‘One day you could be a dairy princess too,’ so that’s where I got into it. And then I grew to love dairy, so those are the other two things that made me want to be part of my county’s ambassador and princess program.

“The coronation is a night I will remember for the rest of my life. It was so much fun. Beforehand, the other finalists and I were dancing back stage and having fun with it. It was definitely a surreal moment when I was crowned; it took a while for it to sink in. The whole night was a blur.

“So the very first day of the State Fair, I did many, many media interviews. I was there before the gate opened for an interview, I got to go on the Today show with Al Roker, and then I spent most of the rest of my day getting my likeness sculpted in 90 pounds of butter. I was there every single day of the State Fair, which has always been a goal of mine—I love the State Fair. I would talk to people at the Dairy Building or down at the Moo Booth. There were milking demonstrations by the cattle barn that the finalists and I did as well as butter sculpting contests with kids, the parade at 2 p.m. every day, and then we also participated in the Ag Olympics throughout the fair. We also talked at the Christiansen Farms Stage at the Miracle of Birth Center. We did cow crafts with kids, and then we’d read dairy stories or they would bring a calf out for us to talk about calf care.

“It’s hard to beat getting your likeness sculpted in 90 pounds of butter. That was pretty awesome. It takes about six to eight hours; mine took about eight. I was doing many media interviews during it. Sometimes a TV station would come in, or I’d be on the phone with a newspaper. I also talked to the butter sculptor, Linda Christensen. She was really fun to talk to—she has been doing it for over 40 years, so she has lots of fun stories to tell.

“As for this year’s State Fair, I have a few different plans. It’s been many years since I’ve been able to be at the fair as a tourist. Prior to being Princess Kay, I showed animals at the State Fair for 4-H so I didn’t make it out of the barns very much. I plan on walking around the State Fair, checking out the butter sculptures and fan-girling the next Princess Kay. I also want to check out the Flavor of the Fair in the Dairy Building, That’s S’more Like It—ice cream with mini marshmallows with graham crackers and chocolate drizzle.

“The State Fair is one of my very favorite places of all, so after I was crowned Princess Kay, it really was a dream come true to spend all 12 days there.”

Meet whomever Annexstad crowns and the rest of the 2018 finalists at the FFA Miracle of Birth Center for family activities and games from 11 a.m. to noon Aug. 25-27, 31 and Sept. 1 and 2 or while they’re being carved in butter at the Dairy Building. 

This interview has been edited for length, style, and clarity.

Haley Hinrichs, the 63rd Princess Kay of the Milky Way, crowning Emily Annexstad at the 2017 Princess Kay coronation. Photo by Matt Addington.
Haley Hinrichs, the 63rd Princess Kay of the Milky Way, crowning Emily Annexstad at the 2017 Princess Kay of the Milky Way coronation. Annexstad will crown the 2018 Princess Kay on Aug. 22.

Photo by Matt Addington