September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
No cow has done it before-or since-and none will likely ever repeat the feat.
It has to rank as the greatest dairy promotion in Minnesota-and even the nation's-history.
Taking a cow from Canada to Mexico didn't just happen-it took a lot of planning.
The idea started in June 1977 when Conrad Kvamme of Orbit Farms at Little Falls was asked by the chairman of the Minneapolis Downtown Council to promote milk in connection with the Minnesota Twins.
Kvamme walked the Nicollet Mall with two of his prize Holsteins at noon, then took them to Metropolitan Stadium for a milking contest before that evening's Minnesota Twins/New York Yankees baseball game.
It was there that the true personality of Kvamme's cow, Satellite Thonyma Memory, blossomed. Yankee Catfish Hunter was smoking Minnesota's Harmon Killebrew in the milking contest-but Memory had other ideas. Just as the contest was about to end, Memory kicked Hunter's pail over-and brought down the partisan house of Twins fans.
Cliff Markuson, then general manager of the Minnesota ADA, was at the game and saw it all. Soon after, Kvamme approached Markuson with the idea of having Memory tour the nation.
"Yogurt was new on the scene then-it had a big future. I said that it would become a household name for breakfast. I felt this would be a good promotion for it," Kvamme recalled.
With Markuson's support, plans began. The route was lined up, ADAs in all states on the way were contacted, sponsors were sought, housing was arranged for each night of the trip, media was contacted, presentations lined up, and all the little details attended to.
"The Minnesota ADA was great. We networked through the Chicago office. Each state knew what we needed," Conrad said.
The original plan was to travel 5,000 miles, going through 13 states and stopping in 31 cities and towns, from June 1 to June 30. With detours and extra stops, the entourage traveled 7,700 miles, hitting 18 states, 46 cities and made over 150 presentations.
Memory, Conrad, and an entourage of six left Little Falls for Roseau, their first stop. From there it was north to the Canadian border on June 1, for the first of many appearances.
The entourage included a truck, trailer, and driver; a Winnebago motor home and driver; Conrad's pickup with supplies; an organ/piano donated for the trip and a talented young man to play it; and Conrad's daughters, Kathy and Lisa.
An aspiring country singer who had made two trips to Nashville the year before, Kvamme composed and sang his own song, "The Milky Way" at each appearance.
As hard as it may be to believe, the group did not have any problems on the entire trip-no accidents, no incidents. And the weather was perfect-except for when they got fogged in at Texas. Conrad and Memory were scheduled to fly out to California for an appearance on the Johnny Carson show, but couldn't make it.
Every other interview went off without a problem and all were live, as this was standard in the days before modern technology, remotes, etc.
"The TV stations were there-it was like a press conference," Kvamme said.
Memory was featured in civic events, community June Dairy Month celebrations, shopping mall shows, dairy breakfasts, 4-H fairs, milking demonstrations, and more.
Memory was a cow that liked people and responded to them, making her perfect for the numerous appearances. She responded to questions by perking up her ears or even mooing on cue. No matter how many people wanted to touch her, or milk her, she stood calmly and chewed her cud.
After zigzagging back and forth on the way south and reaching the Texas/Mexico border, the entourage moved eastward and worked northward, hitting numerous states along the way. On June 30, Conrad and Memory stopped in St. Paul, where Governor Rudy Perpich declared it "Memory's March Day in Minnesota."
The next day, the group finished the trip with an appearance at AMPI in Paynesville, where Memory's milk was sold. About 2,000 people were there to welcome Memory home.
When asked why he undertook such a trip, Kvamme said simply, "We needed to do more for dairy product awareness, especially for yogurt which was new then. I thought we'd be a role model so someone else would do it in a different part of the country, but it's never happened again."
The trip not only attracted people to each appearance, but they remembered Memory. She received over 1,500 letters and Christmas cards from kids, many of them addressed simply to "Memory, the Cow, Minnesota."
Millions of copies of the flyer "Memory and her Mighty Milk" were printed and disseminated all over the United States. The story was told, again and again.
Kvamme continues to promote dairy products today, just as he has all his life. His philosophy is that dairy products are still underrated.
"We need to make parents and kids realize that the number one element in the body is calcium. It needs to be replenished often. Milk is the answer, along with cheese. Thank goodness butter is back-it's nutritious and a source of vitality. How could anything so good be whipped to death over cholesterol?" Kvamme said.
He said, "Our message needs to be told. When you have one of the world's great food sources like dairy-that's so good for you and so tasty-and you would fail to promote it, that's a travesty. We are promoting milk and dairy products today, but we've barely touched the tip of the iceberg-or the milkberg. Too many people don't realize the importance of milk. It's time for a dairy renaissance-we're not promoting it enough. We're taking it for granted."
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