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Alice in Dairyland’s Return to Brown County

Monday, May 08, 2017
Alice in Dairyland has been an agriculture icon in Wisconsin since 1948. No longer a pageant queen, Alice reflects the booming industry that provides over $88 billion to our state’s economy. Alice in Dairyland is a salaried year long position responsible for the marketing and promotion of the agriculture industries across the state. While the name of the position has stayed the same, the duties and selection process have changed over the last 70 years.
The Alice in Dairyland program got its start in 1948 at the Wisconsin Centennial Celebration at the State Fair. The idea was to find a young woman to be the face of Wisconsin Dairy that would travel across the country promoting the big event at the fair. Alice in Dairyland even had a special building on the fairgrounds with exhibits and a 10 foot tall robotic Alice. This technological marvel could sit, stand, and even talk to visitors. The Alice robot was used at the State Fair for the next decade.

Margaret McGuire of Highland, Wisconsin, at age 18, was the first to hold the title of Alice. She traveled in Wisconsin and across the country promoting the Wisconsin State Fair and was even given her own plane for her travels. When Margaret was chosen, the qualifications were simply, “beauty and health, general personality, and ability to present herself and her message before large groups.” In the 1950s the process became more elaborate. Alice princesses were named in June and the next two months were spent interviewing for the position. The final Alice was named in August.

Today, Alice is much less a beauty queen but rather a public relations professional. In the first round of the selection process, applications are evaluated based on resumes, personal interviews, and communications ability. If she passes this round, she still has to impress a selection panel during the three-day finals. This includes creating a presentation based on one of six agribusiness tours taken during those three days. Throughout the finals she is evaluated on public speaking skills, discussion panel participation, an interview with the selection panel and TV and radio interview skills. All of this will take place this week in Brown County.

This year marks the fourth time Brown County will host the Alice in Dairyland Finals. Brown County has previously hosted the Finals in 1958 (St. Norbert College), 1967 (Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena) and 1978 (Carlton Inn West). This year will be one of the largest finals events ever held at legendary Lambeau Field. Not only is the venue big, there is a record number of previous Alices attending the event. Thirty three of sixty nine Alices are expected to attend. Among them is Margaret (McGuire) Blott, the first Alice. They will all be visiting the Neville Public Museum before the final event at Lambeau on May 13th to see the exhibit Alice in Dairyland: Wisconsin’s Agricultural Ambassador. This special exhibit explores the impact Wisconsin agriculture has on our everyday lives, along with Alice, in a one of a kind hands-on experience.

Alice in Dairyland has been an important part of the Wisconsin Agriculture community over the past 70 years. The Alice in Dairyland exhibit and the 70th Alice Finals hosted by Brown County are a celebration of the rich history and exciting future of Alice in Dairyland.

Lisa Kain
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