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Dairy industry changes, but there’s still a Princess Kay

Fifty years ago, when Betty (Jax) Cole was crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way at the State Fair, Minnesota had 16,000 dairy farms and the Princess Kay job was a huge deal.

She made 600 appearances during her reign, had a driver and lived with a chaperone, as part of the full-time, year-long job promoting the dairy industry.

Today, Minnesota has about 4,700 dairy farms. The promotion program continues, and this year’s Princess Kay — Elizabeth Olson of Hutchison — will be a spokesperson for the industry, albeit at a less feverish pace than 50 years ago.

An article in the Rochester Post-Bulletin lets Cole reminisce about those glory days.

“[She] was crowned on the grandstand the opening night of the 1959 Minnesota State Fair.

She remembers bugs flying in her mouth while talking on stage, the lights and being escorted on stage by midshipmen from the Naval Air Station in Minneapolis dressed in white.

“The grandstand was huge,” Cole said. “It felt like it was bigger than the barn.”

It reminded Cole, who had only been to the Twin Cities a couple times before the coronation, of a Las Vegas-style show and stage.

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