Minnesota Royal celebrates farming fun

Mark Baumgarten

The event might be longer, and the competitions might be a little wackier, but there is one thing that hasn’t changed about Minnesota Royal in the last 83 years: its devotion to promoting Minnesota state agriculture.
From its kickoff on Monday through its conclusion today, the 83rd annual Minnesota Royal, themed “Minnesota Royal like its 1999,” gives students in the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences the opportunity to have some fun and celebrate the tradition of Minnesota agriculture.
“The students do a lot of fun things,” said Mary Buschette, program director for COAFES, “but this whole thing is also about the importance of agriculture.”
St. Paul students showed their tradition Thursday morning during the event’s preliminary showmanship. The showmanship event gives students who have little experience exhibiting livestock the opportunity to learn from students who are professional exhibitors. This event remains the oldest tradition of Minnesota Royal.
“Everybody knows that this is the biggest part of the week,” said Matt Schleicher, a senior majoring in agriculture industry and management and member of the Minnesota Royal Executive Board. “I definitely think that everyone knows that this is how the whole thing got started.”
This event started in 1916 when it was known as “Ag Royal.” For many years, the event consisted of nothing more than Saturday livestock showmanship contests.
Since that time, more than the event’s name has changed. Minnesota Royal has transformed into a week-long celebration of agriculture on the St. Paul campus.
St. Paul students kicked off the week Monday with a forum titled “Agriculture: What’s Ahead.” This informative session cleared the way for students to roll into a week of agricultural festivities.
Following a Royal Run on Monday afternoon, COAFES students spent the week competing in skits, a quiz bowl, the Ag Olympics and a milkmaid competition.
“The milkmaid competition is, by far, the most interesting event,” Jennifer Wagner, a COAFES senior and chairwoman of the Minnesota Royal Executive Board, said of the Wednesday event. The event featured student teams singing to cows. As the teams sing, the cows are milked by a milkmaid, a female student.
When members of the Alpha Zeta sorority and Ag Ambassadors sang, “When you pull upon a teat, out will come a milky treat,” to the tune of “When you wish upon a star,” Leah Becker, a senior majoring in animal and plant systems, said she knew that the event was going well.
“Everybody is smiling and having a good time,” Becker said. “Events like this really bring everyone together.”
Becker and Adam Donnelly, a sophomore majoring in animal and plant systems, were crowned queen and king of Minnesota Royal 1999 on Tuesday night. The selection process involved an essay, an interview and a popularity vote.
While Becker and Donnelly enjoy the privilege of being chosen queen and king, they said they believe the true purpose of Minnesota Royal is not solely for the students, but also for the future of agriculture in Minnesota.
“Hopefully, we are getting the word out that the future of agriculture is here,” Donnelly said. “Small farms may be out the door, but this week shows that the youth are still willing to put time and energy into the industry.”
This year, many changes have been made to the event that will help get the word out about agriculture at the University.
“We are trying to get our name out to more of the industry, more members of government and to prospective students,” Schleicher said. “Hopefully these new events will do that.”
Among these new events is a complimentary breakfast for all COAFES students from 7:30 to 10 a.m. today. Also, a faculty and celebrity showmanship contest will be held today at 3 p.m. in the St. Paul Pavilion.
But other changes affecting the annual event have Wagner concerned about the future of Minnesota Royal.
“Next year will be a challenge with semesters,” Wagner said. “We usually have (the event) in late May, and next year we have to schedule it for April. The weather might not be as agreeable as it usually is.”
While the future might look cloudy, participants in this year’s event are very pleased with the current condition of Minnesota Royal.
“It’s been a really fun week,” Becker said. “I think things are going really smoothly.”