COVID changes the role of dairy princess

FONDA — Montgomery County Dairy Princess Sarah Keehan, a senior at Fonda-Fultonville High School competed in the American Dairy Association North East’s 58th New York State Dairy Princess Pageant Tuesday.

Running for the state pageant will be “exhilarating,” Keehan said.

“I’m always very shy, so I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone,” Keehan said.

She said she is ready for the pageant, but feels excited and nervous as the pageant approaches.

During the pageant tonight, judges and viewers can “expect a lot of things, I’m just hoping they can expect that I can do the best I can do considering all these circumstances happening,” Keehan said.

Keehan will be one of 12 girls to participate in the two-day pageant, which includes a personal interview, impromptu questions, a prepared adult speech, a product knowledge exam, writing skills, and informal interaction with others. Judges will evaluate the contestants on their communication skills, knowledge of the dairy industry, poise and personality.

The 17-year-old is in the local FFA chapter, the 4H club and is in the Drama Club at Fonda-Fultonville High School.

She is currently a senior at F-FCSD, but when she graduates she plans on attending either Alfred State or SUNY Delhi to be a veterinary technician.

Keehan first became Montgomery County Princess in the spring of 2020 and due to COVID-19 she was able to be the dairy princess for a second year.

As dairy princess, she likes promoting the industry and the product.

The typical role of a dairy princess is to serve as a spokesperson and advocate for dairy farmers by engaging with and educating consumers on the nutritional benefits of milk and dairy foods, how farmers care for their cows and their land in order to produce a sustainable product, and the importance of the dairy industry to the State’s economy. Dairy princesses also work with ADANE at a variety of special events including local dairy princess pageants, farmer meetings, state and county fairs and sampling dairy products at grocery stores. “Things I normally get to do are parades, Sundae on the Farm for Fulton and Montgomery,” Keehan said. “I always like helping the kids, petting the cows, telling about my favorite breed — the milking shorthorn.”

This year, due to COVID-19, many typical dairy princess responsibilities were altered. For instance, the pandemic severely increased the need for food assistance. As milk and dairy foods are some of the most nutrient-rich foods, ensuring those in need received dairy became a mission of the State’s dairy industry. Dairy princesses played an important role promoting milk distribution events organized by ADANE and assisting and handing out milk and dairy foods at various local events.

Keehan has been involved in the dairy industry for about five years, however she said she has always helped her uncles with their dairy farm when she was younger, and they now have a beef farm. She also works with beef and milk on her farm.

She said in regards to the dairy industry she hopes people support it.

“It’s always been there, it’s always a good product to have around,” Keehan said.

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