As the month of February kicked off, excitement surrounding the Super Bowl was high. Attending school at the University of Minnesota gave me a first-hand look at the variety of Super Bowl related activities. From Nordic skiing races on the Nicollet Mall, to embracing the cold weather, to the U of M marching band performing during the halftime show, the Super Bowl was completely Minnesotan this year.
    It only makes sense that dairy would be a part of this Minnesota celebration. Dairy contributes to Minnesota in more ways than just putting delicious dairy foods on our plate or in our cup. Economically, dairy creates a multiplier effect, and for every dollar of output on the farm, $1.70 is generated into the economy, according to a 2016 report by MDA/AMD. For every glass of milk, slice of cheese or gallon of ice cream, jobs are created and money is exchanged. However, dairy might not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of our state. Leading up to the Super Bowl, I had the opportunity to help dairy come to people’s minds when they think about what Minnesota has to offer.
    The first event I attended was the Kid’s Tailgate Party. Here, I helped dairy farmers and Midwest dairy staff at the Mix it with Milk station. The Kid’s Tailgate Party celebrated 52 weeks of giving and 52 weeks of school breakfast. Part of the Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program, this year-long initiative helped to provide nutritious school breakfasts in more schools throughout Minnesota. Ten Fuel up to Play 60 kids also had the chance to have their Super Snack recipes featured at the event.
    Next, I attended the Fuel up to Play 60 Innovation Challenge. I witnessed kids in action as they came up with ways to improve their school lunch programs. After working with a group of their peers, mentors and dairy farmers, these students gave a one-minute pitch on their ideas to four judges and the audience. Some of the ideas included adding a smoothie bar with yogurt and fruit in their school lunch line or hosting events at school and inviting farmers.
    My family and I also had the opportunity to work at the Midwest Dairy Super Bowl Experience Booth. One of the highlights of the booth was the virtual reality game. Here, participants earned Undeniably Dairy coins while touring a dairy farm and football locker room. There were also endless opportunities to pass out cheese samples and have conversations. One of my favorite parts of the experience was the Fuel Up to Play 60 clinic. My brothers and I talked to a group of kids about our farm, favorite dairy foods and ways we stay active. Then, the kids got to participate in fun drills and relays that encouraged healthy living. The event ended with the kids having an opportunity to have their pictures taken with professional football players and refueling with cheese samples.
    The Super Bowl is over, the fans have returned home, and Minnesota has quieted down a bit. The conversations that the Super Bowl gave dairy farmers the chance to experience with fans and consumers of our nutritious dairy foods, however, will remain. As the month of February continued to unfold, I was given more chances to talk about dairy. I waved in the Winter Carnival Torchlight Parade, accompanied by Fairborn and Fairchild, our Minnesota State Fair mascots. I also joined Gopher Dairy Club members, parents and supporters at their annual banquet. Here, I had the chance to help celebrate and connect with others who love Minnesota’s dairy community as much as I do. While the magnitude of an event like the Super Bowl brings a wonderful opportunity to spread dairy’s story, smaller events such as these are equally as important and meaningful.
    Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Emily Annexstad, serves as the Minnesota dairy community’s goodwill ambassador. Throughout the year, Princess Kay helps people understand the dedication of dairy farmers to wholesome and nutritious food, and the way milk is produced. Princess Kay does many school presentations, represents dairy farmers at the Fuel Up To Play 60 events that are held in conjunction with the Minnesota Vikings, and is very active during June Dairy Month sharing the importance of dairy farming and dairy foods. Emily and her family own and operate a dairy farm in St. Peter, Minn. She is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota studying animal science and agricultural communications and marketing. She enjoys reading, playing and watching sports, and showing cattle.