The Steele County American Dairy Association will have five Dairy Princesses to spread the word about their industry in 2022. With the return of Breakfast on the Farm and a full lineup of parades, summer festivals and fairs, and daycare visits, there are plenty of promotional opportunities to go around.

At Saturday's 69th Annual Dairy Princess and Ambassador Banquet Courtney Kath, Afton Nelson, Hailey Rysavy, Katelyn Rysavy, and Lilly Zollner spoke of how the dairy industry has impacted their lives and shaped their future plans. Not all of them grew up on a farm, but Zollner said it can still be your home.

Courtney Kath grew up around dairy cows on her grandparents' farm and enjoyed helping with chores. She is very proud to have won the Steele County 4H Super Hero Award for her willingness to always "step up and help." She also won the Kottke Dairy Achievement Award. Kath enjoys working with kids and plans to get a degree in Early Childhood Education. Courtney is the daughter of Matt and Jill Kath.

Afton Nelson began her 4H experience through Cow Camp in Steele County and continues to stay active locally, even though she attends Glencoe-Silver Lake High School. She was a state FFA champ and rehabbed a freak knee injury in order to show at the National FFA Convention for dairy handling. This is her first year as a Dairy Princess. Nelson plans to attend South Dakota State University and then the University of Minnesota to become a large animal veterinarian. Afton is the daughter of Tim Nelson and Stacy Nelson.

Hailey Rysavy grew up on a third-generation dairy farm. She enjoys helping with farm chores and showing 4H. A couple of years ago her family decided to reduce the number of cows they milked. She calls it one of the most "heartbreaking moments of my life." Rysavy has wrapped up her first year at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and plans to get a degree in speech pathology and work with elementary-age students. Hailey is the daughter of Ben and Wendy Rysavy.

Katelyn Rysavy grew up on a dairy farm that still milks 80 head. She likes helping at the farm with young calves and the garden and housework. She is an Owatonna High School graduate and is currently in STEP (Secondary Transition Education Program). She looks to work in the food industry or at a greenhouse. Katelyn is the daughter of Joe and Cheryl Rysavy.

Lilly Zollner began dairy showing through Cow Camp and is in her fourth year as a Dairy Princess. She also served as an Ambassador for the Minnesota Brown Swiss Association. She helps on the farm with milking, pregnancy checks, dehorning and many other chores. Zollner finished her junior year at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and will complete her degree at Dakota County Technical College with a vet tech certification. Lilly is the daughter of Mark and Gail Zollner.


Aurora Diner
Roy Koenig/TSM

The Aurora Diner, a regular gathering place for farm families, 4H students and fairgoers during the Steele County Free Fair, received the Milk Pitcher Award. The honor goes for "outstanding support for the dairy industry." Board member Jon Schmidt said, "This year's winner has been serving mile at their fair booth for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily since 1965. Built in two weeks, and added onto three times, it is open every day of the fair. The Aurora Church now works with other groups to be able to staff it every day from 6:45 - 9:00. Congratulations to the Aurora Diner."


Steele County ADA
Roy Koenig/TSM

The Duke and Duchess program is for kids in kindergarten through third grade and includes Eliza Balzer, Penelope Balzer, Isaac Demmer, Evan Halla, Mackenzie Jacobsen, Olivia Jacobsen, August Schroht, and Elizabeth Schultz.


Steele County ADA
Roy Koenig/TSM

Dale Spindler received the Lifetime Achievement Award. His farm started a generation before him in 1955. "He made full-time farming his career in 1976. His farm was recognized as the Steele County Farm Family of the Year in 2020. He is a board member for the ADA, with years of malt stand expertise," said board member Casey Nelson.


Steele County ADA
Roy Koenig?TSM

Each Steele County ADA Dairy Princess received a $300 scholarship. Nelson received an additional $500 scholarship.


Steele County ADA
Roy Koenig/TSM

The Junior Ambassador program is for students in fourth through 11th grade. Steele County participants are Chase Balzer, Claira Balzer, Ava Cox, Anna Cox, Chloe Garten, Lukas Halla, Madison Homuth, Madi Murphy, Andy Nelson, Cali Nelson, Kellen Nelson, Marcus Rysavy, Anton Schroeder, Weston Schroht, Colin Schultz, Isabella Schultz, and Ali Slater.

Schedule of events for 2022 for the Steele County American Dairy Association

  • Princess Kay Training, May 13-14
  • Fun Family Festival, May 19
  • Memorial Day Parade, May 30
  • Breakfast on the Farm, June 11 at Schmity Holsteins
  • Straight River Days Parade, June 17
  • Ellendale Days Parade, June 25
  • July 4th Parade and Malt Stand, July 3-4
  • GEM Days Malt Stand, July 21-23
  • Steele County Free Fair, August 16-21

Saturday's emcee was Jerry Groskreutz of Townsquare Media/KDHL Radio. The Steele County ADA Board includes Jon Schmidt (chair), Casey Nelson (Vice-Chair), Aaron Schroht (treasurer), Abby Mundt (secretary), Cathy Balzer, Rick Balzer, Glenn Johnson, Pete Kasper, Amy Nelson, Dale Spindler, and Gail Zollner.

Scholarship judges were Schroht, Daria Stransky, and Karen VonRuden. Princess judges included Karen Kaster, Rick Bussler, and Roy Koenig.


  1. There are 2,000 types of cheese.
  2. Cows rest about 10 hours a day.
  3. Chocolate ice cream was invented 50 years before vanilla.
  4. About 95% of US dairy farms are family-owned.
  5. One serving of milk has 9 essential nutrients.

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