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Niagara County Dairy Princess to hold 50th pageant

This is the 50th year for the Niagara County Dairy Princess Pageant, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Niagara Orleans Dairy Princess Pageant, and organizers are interested in hearing from all past winners to help celebrate the occasion.

The pageant committee is offering free dinner tickets for all past winners to attend this year’s pageant, slated for 7 p.m. April 23 at the Hartland Volunteer Fire Company Hall, 8945 Ridge Road, Gasport. Reservations are due by April 15.

Pageant committee members are interested in hearing what impact the pageant had on all past winners and what they are doing today. They are invited to share their information in a special pageant program and are asked to do so by contacting Brian Waters at 735-7113.

Waters, who served as committee chair for 17 years before handing the reins to Amanda Flannsburg, said girls ages 16 to 21 who have a relationship with dairy farming, either as a daughter or granddaughter of active or retired dairy farmers, are eligible for consideration. Also, girls who have a connection to someone who services the dairy industry, like veterinarians, are eligible to compete for the crown.

The deadline is Tuesday for new candidates and Waters may be contacted for information. A new winner will be crowned at the April 23 pageant and then will represent the dairy industry for the coming year. Dairy princesses visit schools and community organizations throughout Niagara and Orleans counties, for example, to promote and provide education on the industry.

Linda Chaffee Rosenthal was crowned the first Niagara County Dairy Princess a half-century ago.

Waters said past princesses have said, “This is one of their greatest experiences. It’s the thrill of a lifetime. I would recommend this to anybody.”

The dairy princess program is an important part of the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council communications effort. Dairy princesses also participate in Farm Bureau meetings, Cornell Cooperative Extension annual dinners, parades, the Niagara County Fair’s Farm City Breakfast, and various 4-H animal shows. They also participate in supermarket, radio and television promotions, as well as Environmental Day at the Royalton Ravine each year.

And, for the past decade, the dairy princess has visited local hospitals to welcome the first baby born in June, which is Dairy Month, and presented the new mothers with a dairy care package.

Pageant organizers point to the strong leadership skills princesses acquire on and off the farms. The program encourages; public speaking, learning how to deal with difficult questions about farm practices, and educating the public on misconceptions about milk and the farming life.

Waters said, “Part of the story the dairy princess tells the consumer is about the nutrition you get from milk – the nine essential nutrients you get. They talk about all of the health benefits of milk and dairy products for growing bones.”

Another topic dairy princesses cover is that, “Farmers take care of their cows,” Waters said. “If your cow isn’t content, isn’t happy, it won’t produce milk. And if it doesn’t produce milk, you don’t make money. So, farmers take care of their cows – it’s their livelihood.

“And, farmers are good stewards of the land,” he added. “They are environmentalists and conservationists – and they’ve been doing this forever.”

Waters has long been involved in dairy farming, as co-founder of Waters Brothers Dairy in 1981. His daughter, Jill Waters Goodenough, served as a princess alternate in 1996, and his granddaughter, Gwenna Goodenough, 14, currently serves in the princess’ court.

Waters said one of the crown’s perks is its boost in developing confidence in public speaking.

Tickets for the April 23 pageant are $12 for adults, $8 for children 6-12, and $4 for children under 6.

The event is open to the public.

To purchase tickets, make checks payable to: Niagara-Orleans County Dairy Princess Committee, and mail to Lorretta Criswell, 8519 Ertman Road, Lockport, NY 14094 before April 15.