WILLMAR, Minn. — Anna Euerle missed the first two weeks of her final semester at Ridgewater College in August, but she had the best of excuses.
Just before the Minnesota State Fair began, Euerle emailed her instructors in the middle of the night with a message, “I’m Princess Kay now.”
Euerle, 19, had warned them earlier that she would probably miss the first days of the semester because of the State Fair. In addition to being a Princess Kay finalist, she had planned to show cattle at the fair, too, she said during an interview in early December.
Princess Kay of the Milky Way is the title awarded to a young woman with ties to the dairy industry who is the official goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s dairy farmers. A new Princess Kay is crowned the night before the State Fair opens each year.
Euerle is the 68th young woman to hold the title, and is now known in the Princess Kay alumni group as PK68.
Ridgewater had had finalists in the past, but Euerle was the first Princess Kay from the school. It resulted in some excitement for the school. She’s also the first Princess Kay from Meeker County, though one of her sisters was a runner-up.
Euerle completed her associate degree in the fall semester while meeting the demands of her role as Princess Kay. She graduated in December with a degree in agri-business with a dairy emphasis. She starts classes at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in January to study food science and technology.
Her career goal is to be a milk inspector for the state of Minnesota, working with farmers to ensure their equipment is up to code and operating correctly.
The same balancing act will follow her to River Falls, she said.
After she was crowned, she asked if she should take a lighter credit load in college. Absolutely not, was the answer from representatives of Midwest Dairy. She was told to take classes recommended by her advisers, and the Princess Kay program would work with her on scheduling.
“I’m thankful to them, that they are open to me pursuing my educational goals,” she said.
As Princess Kay, she has met all kinds of people, from elementary students to corporate leaders. She’s done numerous media interviews.
She’s gotten used to some teasing from Ridgewater classmates and has been recognized in all kinds of places. At a cattle show in Wisconsin, she was taking care of cows and dressed in overalls when a man walked up and said, “Hey, Princess Kay, they let you out of Minnesota?”
Euerle’s ties to the dairy industry run deep. Her parents, Joan and Vaughn, run an 80-cow dairy farm north of Litchfield. She works and shows cattle for Corstar Farm, a 30-cow dairy near Litchfield.
She co-owns a cow with Corstar, a 3-year-old roan milking shorthorn named Christianna.
While she likes working with smaller herds, she interned at a 600-cow dairy farm and enjoyed that, too. “I was worried it might be overwhelming, but I fell in love,” she said. “The more cows the merrier.”
She had planned to show Christianna at the State Fair but had arranged to have friends take care of her and show her, just in case she became PK68.
It was strange to be in the ring to hand out ribbons and watch her cow led in by someone else, she said.
She was able to award a ribbon to Christianna and her handler.
“I had a mask on and everything, but she recognized me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek,” she said. “It was really special.”
The question Euerle hears most often, whether she’s in an elementary classroom or a corporate boardroom, is about her butterhead.
Princess Kay and other finalists each sit in a giant windowed cooler each year at the State Fair while an artist carves a bust out of a 90-pound block of butter.
Nearly everyone knows about the butterheads, and they all want to know what she’s going to do with it. For now, it’s in the freezer at home.
Some princesses eventually melt them down for a sweet corn feed or a pancake breakfast. Some use it in their own homes. She knows of one head that’s been in a PK’s freezer for 40 years.
A sweet corn feed was her original plan, she said. But someone reminded her that her butterhead is historic — sculptor Linda Christensen retired this year after 50 years of carving dairy princesses at the State Fair.
“For now, we’re going to hold onto it,” she said. “I think I’m going to have to let the butterhead hang out in the freezer for a while.”