Ready to celebrate 400 years

Ickler, Spearman plan Quadricentennial Party ‘til the Cows Come Home dairy show

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KASSON, Minn. — In 1624, dairy cows came to the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Now, four centuries later, a celebration is being planned to celebrate their impact.

Robert Ickler, the FFA adviser at Triton High School, and Cadence Spearman, a graduating senior at Triton, are planning the Quadricentennial Party ‘til the Cows Come Home dairy show in honor of 400 years.

“We need to remind people and celebrate how important that (dairy) industry is to all of us,” Ickler said. “What I’m looking forward to is just having a big cow party.”

The show will be held June 6-7 at the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Kasson. The first day of the show will include a fitting contest, a showmanship contest with two age divisions, a burger bash for the community, and an awards ceremony for the winners of the fitting and showmanship contests. The next morning will feature dairy shows with the colored breed classes followed by Holsteins at noon.

“We’re doing the best we can to plan a celebration for anyone who enjoys the dairy industry,” Ickler said. “If you don’t have animals, we have a burger bash. You can come watch (the shows). If you’ve got animals, come party with us.”

The show is Spearman’s senior project. Spearman grew up on a swine, steer and crop farm and began showing dairy animals in junior high school. She also has been part of FFA since seventh grade.

“I started to really love the (dairy) industry and wanted to make a big impact on it because it’s definitely made an impact on my life,” Spearman said.

Ickler said the show is meant to celebrate both current and past contributors to the dairy community.

“From the 1800s forward, if you didn’t have dairy, (in Minnesota) where would you be?” Ickler said. “Where would the state be and its historical evolution had there not been a dairy presence?”

Ickler grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin.

“Some of the most important lessons I have learned in life, I’ve learned from working with cows,” Ickler said. “The gratitude of having that opportunity to learn about life from working with those animals every day, that’s ... (why) I’m excited about celebrating this.”

Ickler was inspired with the idea about three years ago during a virtual FFA regional dairy judging contest. One of the questions on the test asked when dairy cows came to the U.S.

Ickler said he looked at the judging students and asked them when they were graduating. Three of the four were graduating in 2024, the 400th anniversary. Ickler told his students that an event should be planned. He decided a dairy show would be the best option.

“We needed something big and different and unique,” Ickler said. “Some of these kids that did the dairy judging like showing.”

He said the show gives students who do not own registered animals a place to show outside a fair.

Ickler approached Spearman and asked her if she wanted to make the show her senior project. With this and other FFA events in which Spearman has participated, she has a lot on her resume even before she attends college, Ickler said.

“When you give a passionate, creative person free range on a brand-new thing and watch the ideas flow, (that) is a fun opportunity,” Ickler said.

Ickler said Spearman has learned how to create a website, raise funds with cold call sale pitches and promote through social media.

Spearman will attend South Dakota State University for animal science. She said planning the show helped her decide her major.

Spearman said the show will be a relaxed experience that will provide youth with development opportunities.

“They can grow as a fitter, they can grow as a showman, and they can also grow in the industry ... by networking with other people and meeting different people from around the state,” Spearman said.

Planning began a year ago. The event is sponsored by the Triton FFA Alumni organization, so all donations went through that organization. They raised around $15,000 in monetary and product donations of cheese, ground beef and clippers. Ickler said they even received four donations of $1,000.

“We have been blessed with some great support,” Ickler said.

Ickler and Spearman did about 95% of the planning, Ickler said. Spearman said planning the event without any past event as a foundation has been a challenge.

“We’re starting on a blank slate on every single level we could ever start at,” Spearman said.

As of May 17, the event had 20 registrations and 72 animals signed up. Registration is open through the end of May. The show is sanctioned by the state of Minnesota and will have a veterinarian present.

The show will include ribbons and prize money. Any extra money will be distributed as scholarships.

“We’re not going to take anything back,” Spearman said. “It’s for the kids.”

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