September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

A royal family

Holdvogt is sixth sister crowned dairy princess
Five of the six Holdvogt sisters – (from left) Teresa Mueller, Joanie Hiltner, Judy Jensen, Gina Holdvogt and Katie Lauer attended the Stearns County Dairy Princess contest March 11 where GIna was crowned princess.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
Five of the six Holdvogt sisters – (from left) Teresa Mueller, Joanie Hiltner, Judy Jensen, Gina Holdvogt and Katie Lauer attended the Stearns County Dairy Princess contest March 11 where GIna was crowned princess.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE

By By Jennifer [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

NEW MUNICH, Minn. - Throughout the last 20 years, five Holdvogt sisters have represented their parents, Alvin and Bernie, in their role as Stearns County Dairy Princesses. On March 11, sisters Judy (Holdvogt) Jensen, Teresa (Holdvogt) Mueller, Betty Holdvogt, Joanie (Holdvogt) Hiltner and Katie (Holdvogt) Lauer cheered on their youngest sister, Gina, as she became the sixth and final Holdvogt sister to hold the title.
"I'm very excited," said 19-year-old Gina. "It's like I'm completing a family legacy, and I hope I can make my family proud by representing the dairy industry in a wonderful way."
Gina's mother agreed.
"We've been involved in the Stearns County Dairy Princess Program since before Gina was born; she grew up with this," said Bernie, who milks 90 cows with her husband and sons, Thomas and Gerald Holdvogt, near New Munich, Minn.
The Holdvogts first became involved in the program in 1997, when Judy was a senior in high school.
"I was proud to come from a farm," Judy said for her reasoning to be a dairy princess. "And once I got to college, I realized the importance of educating others about the dairy industry; it was a fun and good experience."
Judy served as a dairy princess for two terms - in 1997 and again in 1999; Theresa was given the title a short time later in 2001, then Betty in 2003, Joanie in 2005 and Katie in 2010.
"It became a strong family tradition," Judy said. "We were honored to represent dairy farmers."
During Judy's reigns, the state dairy princess program was still organized by regions. However, when Theresa was crowned a county princess, the program shifted to a statewide competition with 12 finalists selected to compete for the title of Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
Both Betty and Katie went on to be finalists, and Katie was placed in the top three for the state title.
"I still remember being at the banquet when they were choosing the 12," Bernie said. "When they started reading the first girl's information, I thought it sounded a lot like Betty. My heart pounded after they announced her name."
The summers of 2003 and 2010 were busy for the Holdvogts as Betty and Katie prepared for the Minnesota State Fair.
"It was so fun going down as a family and seeing their likenesses [in butter]," said Gina, who was 5 years old when Betty was a finalist.
The fun continued when Betty showcased her butterhead on the "David Letterman Show." Betty had previously attended the show and was asked to write down a unique fact about herself, which she chose to talk about her role as a former dairy princess. The fact got her a call from show staff and a plane ticket to New York to share her butterhead story with the audience and those watching the late night show.
However, for the Holdvogt sisters, the title of dairy princess was always more than the fanfare that came with the crown and sash.
"We were honored to do what we did," Judy said. "Our parents never pushed us, but instead they instilled in us to be proud of coming from a farm and the work ethic that came with it."
Bernie agreed.
"They share our passion, but this role isn't just about dairy farming," she said. "These are young women taking their knowledge out into the world, giving their all and promoting the dairy industry, not just for us as parents, but all farmers."
Watching her older sisters exemplify their role as dairy princesses, it was no surprise Gina wanted to follow in their footsteps.
When it came time for Gina to prepare for the county competition, her older sisters were readily available to offer advice and coach her through the mock speeches and interviews.
"Right away I asked them for suggestions to prepare myself," Gina said. "They all supported me in one way or another - looking over my speech, practicing interviews, doing my hair the night of - they all encouraged me throughout."
Judy uncovered a folder she and her mother created when the family first became involved in the dairy princess program. The folder includes facts about the dairy industry, and was used by all the sisters as they prepared for competition.
On the evening of March 11, the Holdvogt sisters anxiously awaited the results from judging, which was held earlier that day.
Of nine young women crowned Stearns County Dairy Princesses, Gina's name was called eighth.
"It was nerve-racking waiting," Judy said. "We were proud of Gina no matter the results, but in the moment we really wanted her to be a dairy princess like the rest of us."
In the year ahead, Gina will participate in classroom visits and work in the malt stand at the county fair, among other promotional events, sharing her family's dairy farming story.
"We are so grateful for the ADA board, taking time out of their schedule to work with the princesses. They have made all my girls feel like royalty," Bernie said. "This year will be no different."
As the Holdvogts' granddaughters and nieces grow up in the industry, there is hope the next generation may be interested in serving in the role of dairy princess. For now, though, the family is looking forward to Gina's year ahead as her reign marks the end of an era.
"I think our family tradition will continue on," Judy said. "Now, though, it's bittersweet."
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