Princess Kay of the Milky Way

by Sirrina Martinez

Katelyn Welgraven, of rural Pipestone County, will be competing for the 2024 title of Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Growing up on the dairy farm started by her grandfather, Welgraven, who is the daughter of Keith and Jeanna Welgraven, never expected to make it this far.

"I wanted to compete last year but I couldn't because I had a play that I was in the same weekend as the May event," she said. "I was never fully sure if I was going to compete in it, but this year I knew I really wanted to. So we went to the May event and I prepped everything. I never had my hopes up too high because I'm not really great at giving speeches in my opinion. So when it was announced that I was a finalist, I started crying because I was so happy. I just couldn't believe I was a finalist for Princess Kay. It was just something I figured I'd go back again and compete next year, but now I have this incredible opportunity to work with this amazing group of girls and to get to know them better and have a great time."

To qualify for the event that took place in May in Minneapolis, Welgraven needed to be a current Dairy Princess in her own county. Once she met that qualification, she was able to choose to either fully compete, practice or go for the session in Minneapolis. At that event, she said, contestants went through three rounds of judging that include a mock media interview, a speech that they were given a topic to plan on in advance and a professional interview. Contestants were then scored and finalists were selected.

This is Welgraven's third year holding the title of Dairy Princess for Pipestone County, and she has held this title since she was about 17-years-old, she said. She has also held the title of ambassador for multiple years. This year, the title of ambassador went to JordynBre Schulze, 12, of Holland.

Like other Dairy Princesses, Welgraven has spent time in her community educating and promoting the dairy industry by attending parades, community ice cream socials, dairy-based story reading for children and other educational activities. One of her favorite activities is attending parades and sharing information with her community.

"We go around to parades and get our cheese that is donated by Babybel and it's amazing," she said. "People have started to recognize that that's what we throw, and they'll immediately get up, all the adults, the kids, even the older people will get up and stand by their chairs ready to catch cheese  and they get excited. That's the best thing to see at a parade."

Welgraven, who is set to start her sophomore year at the University of South Dakota, is currently pursuing a degree in elementary education and a minor in deaf education. Her hope, she said, is to work in a smaller school.

"I'm not exactly sure which grade I want to teach yet," she said. "For my minor, that is something that I've always been interested in. When I found out our university had it I wanted to add it as a minor and we will just see where life takes me with that. Even if I just get an opportunity to teach sign language in school."

Being out in the community promoting the industry is a great experience, she said. "It's just a nice way to get dairy out there and then have conversations with everybody that comes," she said. "We've had people come up to us and say 'I was a former Dairy Princess,' and you have little kids learn about the dairy industry at such a young age and get the right information right away."

In July, Welgraven will attend another event that prepares finalists for the competition and the coronation event on August 21, the evening before the start of the state fair. If crowned Princess Kay, Welgraven will travel to various counties in the state, visiting classrooms, county fairs and the next Minnesota State Fair.

Having the chance to compete has been an amazing experience for Welgraven.

"I absolutely love it and I never thought I would get this opportunity," she said. "It never crossed my mind that I would get this far. When I was younger my dad asked if I would ever want to be the dairy princess and I would say 'No dad, I'm not a princess.' As I got older and I started doing it, I loved it. I was never sure if I would compete for Princess Kay but I did and I got to be a finalist and I still can't believe it."

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