Campus hosts 82nd

Ingrid Skjong

Wayne Bollum fondly remembers his days as a College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences undergraduate in 1975 when he won a first-place trophy for his prized beef heifer in a showmanship competition.
He won the honors during Minnesota Royal, the St. Paul campus’s traditional agricultural celebration. His trophy and the pride of winning will always be treasured recollections of his college days.
“It is a big part of the memories,” Bollum said.
The long-standing Minnesota Royal showcases the state’s rich agricultural history and celebrates the St. Paul campus. The event continues making memories this week as it celebrates its 82nd year. The week kicked off Monday with a milkmaid contest. An alumni-sponsored barbecue will wrap up the festivities Thursday.
The annual event attracts more than 300 students, alumni and faculty members who partake in activities commemorating the campus and its colleges.
“It’s a way to remind ourselves that there are wonderful traditions over here,” said Mike Martin, dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences.
The event, which began in 1916, was originally called Ag Royal. It honored Minnesota agriculture by consisting almost exclusively of livestock showmanship contests. Marching bands, sheep-shearing competitions and scores of other contests and games punctuated the event as it grew.
Livestock showmanship remains an integral part of the four-day festivities. The college gives registered contestants an animal from the school and three weeks to transform it into show-quality shape. Much like a county fair, livestock are then judged and awarded accordingly.
Although Minnesota Royal is agriculturally focused, all St. Paul campus colleges are welcome to participate. Mary Buschette, alumni relations coordinator and student adviser, said organizers are trying to encourage all St. Paul campus colleges to participate as part of a restructuring effort.
“The invitation was out this year, but the response was low,” Buschette said, adding that the week can be an educational experience for people unfamiliar with agriculture.
The popularity of Ag Royal dwindled during World War II, but slowly rebounded in the 1950s. With a new, more campus-oriented focus, it underwent a final name change in the 1960s when it was officially dubbed Minnesota Royal.
Jennifer Wagner, communications chairwoman and a junior in applied economics, likened the affair to a small, spring homecoming celebration without a football game.
Similar to traditional homecoming festivities, 16 candidates vie for the title of Minnesota Royal king and queen. Candidates must write an essay expressing what the event means to them and undergo an interview by staff and alumni.
A popular vote rounds out the selection process, but Wagner said the interview and essay are included to steer organizations away from voting for their own candidates — a practice that can give an unfair advantage to candidates backed by larger groups.
Kristen Vatthauer, this year’s overall chairwoman of Minnesota Royal and 1997 queen, said representing the campus as royalty was a great honor.
“It really meant a lot to me because the St. Paul campus is very special,” Vatthauer said.
Along with the royalty race, nine student organizations will compete throughout the week in activities, such as a livestock show and agricultural quiz bowl. Ag Ambassadors, the Gopher Dairy Club and other groups, including various fraternities and sororities, accumulate points for placing. The winner takes home a traveling trophy at the end of the week.
Josh Tjosaas, royalty candidate, said the competition is good-natured and fun, and the event’s theme, “As wild as domesticated gets,” represents that. This year’s theme was courtesy of Farmhouse fraternity, and was voted on by a panel of alumni and faculty members.
Tjosaas, a Farmhouse member, said the meaning behind the theme is pretty simple — it refers to domesticated livestock and wild student participants.
Although Bollum’s “wild” college days have passed, returning to campus in support of his alma mater and grilling burgers at the finale barbecue Thursday give him a chance to sit back and reminisce a bit.
“It’s a good opportunity to come back and relive some of those memories,” he said.