Former dairy princesses to be honored at banquet

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 11, 2003

ADAMS -- Eleanor Maley will be there.

So will Ruth Marie Peterson,

Kathy Barlett, Marlys Damman, Jackie Krueger and Betty Jax.

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And, that's only the 1950s.

The Mower County American Dairy Association also has the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as well as the new millennium.

There will be more royalty inside the Sacred Heart Catholic Church fellowship hall Saturday night than Buckingham Palace.

"We're expecting a really big show," said Lynn Sathre, one of banquet volunteers.

According to the Mower County ADA organizers, at least 33 former dairy princesses have indicated they will attend Saturday night's banquet.

On Monday, the ticket deadline, Jane Sathre reported selling 400 tickets to this year's banquet.

Twenty-one of the 33 former princesses live in Mower County.

"People are really showing a lot of interest in this year's banquet," Jane Sathre said.

And, why not? This is dairy history in the making.

The county's first dairy princess, Eleanor Maley, also became a regional dairy princess and took the coveted Princess Kay of the Milky Way title at the Minnesota State Fair.

The next year, Ruth Marie Peterson swept all three top dairy princess honors: regional, Princess Kay and the first-ever American Dairy Princess.

In all, Mower County has produced six regional dairy princesses. The last was Julie Weness, who went on to become the first runner-up to that year's Princess Kay.

Allison Heimer holds the distinction of being the only Mower County dairy princess to repeat. Heimer won the title in 1990 and 1992.

Three of the county princesses went on to become state celebrities as the Princess Kay of the Milky Way. One county princess was a runner-up for the state honor.

Twenty-five years ago, the silver anniversary dairy princess banquet saw 16 former princesses return.

Eleanor Maley of Grand Meadow returned. The county's first dairy princess shared the limelight that year with Diane Severson, 1978's Mower County dairy princess, and 14 other princesses.

Lynn and Jane Sathre, whose daughter, Cristy, is the reigning county dairy princess, have a collection of programs, pictures and newspaper clippings from past dairy princess banquets.

The collection of memorabilia includes a letter of appreciation from President Dwight D. Eisenhower thanking Ruth Marie Peterson for a gift when she visited the White House as the first American Dairy Princess.

There have been sister combinations through the years from the Rice, Grass, Weness and Meier families.

Janet Smith and Anna Smith, cousins, shared the honor one year.

Only one of the former princesses, Nancy Weydert, has died.

In all, 654 young women have vied for the 50 Mower County dairy princess titles in a half century.

The peak came in 1970 and 1975, when 29 and 28 young women, respectively, competed.

By the early 1980s, the numbers of candidates started to drop off and soon they were in single digits. That came in 1985 and they have never retuned to double-digits, paralleling the fate of the American dairy industry, which has seen the number of farming families decline. This year, three young women are competing for the 2003 title.

The programs show every dairy princess banquet for the last 50 years has been held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church's fellowship hall.

Although not confirmed, local ADA board members believe the Mower County banquet may be one of the oldest of its kind in the state.

"It was just something we teenagers did in our day," said Jane Sathre, a candidate in 1970. "We talked about it among ourselves and in our 4-H clubs. One year, the Enterprise Club had three candidates in the contest."

"Ninety-eight percent of the farms in Mower County had dairy cows in those days. It was far different from today," said her husband, Lynn.

The Sathre's daughter, Jill, was an attendant in 1994.

"I wanted to run," said Cristy Sathre, the regional princess. "It was something I wanted to do. To be able to have the opportunity to promote the dairy industry was a privilege."

Because of one death and one princess who held the title twice, the maximum number of princesses able to attend this year's banquet is 48.

The complete list of Mower County Dairy Princesses includes:

1954, Eleanor Maley; 1955, Ruth Marie Peterson; 1956, Kathy Barlett; 1957, Marlys Damman; 1958, Jackie Krueger; 1959, Betty Jax; 1960, Kathy Sheedy; 1961, Nancy Weydert (deceased); 1962, Lonetta Murphy; 1963, Marie Flickinger; 1964, Diane Klassen; 1965, Karmen Larson; 1966, Coral Larson; 1967, Shirley Weness; 1968, Rita Whelen; 1969, Marlene Schloo; 1970, Nancy Parmenter; 1971, Janice Wolfgram; 1972, Janelle Meier; 1973, Rene Linbo; 1974, Kathy Miller; 1975, Shauna Hanson; 1976, Susan Meier; 1977, Merna Rockwell; 1978, Diane Severson; 1979, Cheryl Schaefer; 1980, Denise Heydt; 1981, Carolyn Oswald; 1982, Mary Ulland; 1983, Lisa Brown; 1984, Julie Merten; 1985, Lynette Kenyon; 1986, Connie Rohne; 1987, Kristen Anderson; 1988, Lisa Mullenbach; 1989, Rebecca Anderson; 1990, Allison Heimer; 1991, Suzanne Grass; 1992, Allison Heimer; 1993, Marla Weness; 1994, Shelly Grass; 1995, Heidi Retterath; 1996, Julie Weness; 1997, Janet Smith and Angela Rice; 1998, Nicole Manggard; 1999, Anna Smith and Janet Smith; 2000, Amanda Rice; 2001, Heather Irvin; 2002, Cristy Sathre.

Lee Bonorden can be reached at 434-2232 or by e-mail at