Princess Kay savors new challenges and responsibilities

Branden Peterson

Wearing jeans, a University sweatshirt and a backpack to class, she’s an unassuming princess. But Sarah Olson was wearing a sparkling dress, glittering crown and banner less than a month ago.

Crowned the 49th Princess Kay of the Milky Way at the 2002 Minnesota State Fair, Olson is a sophomore animal production major and the first University student to win the crown of Princess Kay since 1993.

She will act as spokeswoman for Minnesota’s dairy industry for the upcoming year.

“As a farmer’s daughter, it’s a dream to have an opportunity to run for Princess Kay,” Olson, 19, said.

Outside of her University coursework, Olson will make three to four public appearances every month in the next year to promote Minnesota’s dairy industry by visiting children’s classrooms, making speeches at conventions, talking with the media and participating with other events.

More than 130 young women apply for the yearly crown. Olson became eligible after she was named McLeod County Princess and was later selected as one of 12 finalists.

Participants compete based on appearance, communication skills, general knowledge of the dairy industry, personality and enthusiasm for the industry.

“The dairy industry gave me so much and I know so many people and so many contacts, it was so natural to be a part of it,” she said.

Olson has shown cows for many of her 19 trips to the fair. Ironically enough, her parents met in the dairy building at the State Fair more than 20 years ago.

Most years, Olson and her family would sleep in a trailer on the fairgrounds. However, after coronation she was given a hotel room for the remainder of the fair.

“I love the fair, but this year was different than I’m used to. I’m used to being in the barn and being dirty all the time,” she said.

Each of the 12 Princess Kay finalists are featured in butter carvings at the fair every year. Now a month into her reign, Olson still has the more than 70-pound likeness of her in a freezer at home.

Olson said she’s enjoying her many responsibilities.

“I love staying busy. I’m always going and doing something,” she said. “I knew I could handle it, and I knew I was qualified with all the different organizations I had been a part of.”

The Princess Kay competition began in the mid-1950s as an effort to promote Minnesota’s dairy industry.

Minnesota’s 7,500 farmers produce more than nine billion pounds of milk per year. The industry contributes more than $3 billion annually to Minnesota’s economy. Though it’s a large industry to represent, Olson says she’s up for the challenge.

“It hasn’t even sunk in yet. I think this is one of those life-changing experiences,” she said.