Brenna Connelly is a 19-year-old student at the University of Minnesota, originally from Byron, Minn., in Olmsted County. Connelly was crowned the 67th Princess Kay of the Milky Way on Aug. 12. Agweek asked her a few questions about her background and what it's like to be a dairy princess.
Question: What was your introduction to dairy farming?
Answer: Connelly grew up a couple miles down the road from her cousin's dairy farm in Byron, but her own family had a small farm where they raised beef cows and chickens.
"Since I was just two miles down the road of that dairy farm, I'd always go up the road to see the cows and play with the calves," said Connelly, who then became an employee at the farm when she was old enough.
Q: What was your introduction to Princess Kay of the Milky Way?
A: At age 6, Connelly started showing cows alongside her relatives at the Olmsted County fair in Rochester. She said that's when she became aware of Princess Kay.
"The princesses were always the ones handing me the ribbons and those kind of things," she said. "So I always kind of looked up to them and that position."
She had cousins and friends who came before her who were finalists for Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
"It's something I've always been exposed to and kind of been a dream of mine," Connelly said.
Q: What was it like at the coronation of Princess Kay of the Milky Way?
A: Connelly was crowned in person at the coronation event on Aug. 12, with just the families of finalists present, but the event was also livestreamed so people could view it virtually. The ceremony itself was pretty close to what it would be in a regular year, said Connelly, despite not being able to have all the friends and family there.
"Even though we had our masks on and were all spaced out and not holding hands, I think you still had that emotion," Connelly said. "I still felt all the overwhelming joy and honor to be in that position."
That means when she was announced as the winner, Connelly shed some tears of joy.
Q: What was it like to have your likeness shaped out of butter?
A: "I was so grateful that we still had the opportunity to do it this year," said Connelly of the butter carving.
She hung out with Minnesota sculptor Gerry Kulzer, an artist and teacher from Litchfield who took six to eight hours to do the sculpting.
"It was an experience I'll never forget," said Connelly. "And luckily my butter sculpture doesn't have a mask on it."
How it worked was that Kulzer stood behind a Plexiglas wall while he worked to form Connelly's face into the butter.
Connelly gets to keep all 90 pounds of the butter sculpture and said she had a block of it sitting in her freezer at the time of the interview. She said the day the sculpture was made, she got two 5-gallon buckets full of scraps of butter, which she packaged into small containers to share with her friends and people who've supported her in her dairy career.
As far as the actual sculpture, Connelly said her family will cut into that soon and use it do some baking and sharing with friends and family.
"Whatever is left over after that, we're going to donate to our local food shelf," she said.
Q: How will your role of ambassador to the Minnesota dairy industry change during a pandemic?
A: As of right now, Connelly said they don't really know how their in-person events will be affected by the pandemic, but doing more of them virtually could mean reaching more people.
"We're trying to find some cool and unique ways to do it virtual and still have that interaction to support Minnesota dairy farmers," Connelly said. "If I do a Zoom chat with someone at the top of the state in the morning I can talk to someone at the bottom of the state in the afternoon, which kind of gives me a unique opportunity to meet more people along the way."
Q: What are you going to school for?
A: Connelly planned to start classes on Sept. 8, which will be all virtual for at least the first two weeks, but she's already on campus living in a sorority house. She's studying agricultural education and animal science, and wants to do something in youth development. She's considering becoming an ag teacher or working with University of Minnesota 4-H or Extension.