Oregon crowns dairy princess-ambassador
19-year-old OSU student says personal interview was the toughest test
By GEOFF PARKS
For the Capital Press
Jessica Budge of Clackamas County is the 2011 Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassador.
She was presented the crown Jan. 15 in Salem by 2010 Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassador Hanna Emerson of Tillamook.
Budge, 19, graduated from Sherwood High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society and FFA. She now is a student at Oregon State University studying agriculture communications.
Four other young women competed in the 2011 contest:
* First alternate Rebecca Thomas, 18, of Cornelius, representing Washington County.
* Congeniality award winner Carly Hartenstein, 18, of St. Paul, represented Marion County.
* Amanda Wortman represented Columbia County.
* Emily Whalen represented Tillamook County.
The congeniality award was determined by a vote of the finalists.
The contestants had to show their skills in an onstage personal interview, a speech related to the dairy industry, judges' interviews, an impromptu speech and a mock classroom presentation.
Asked prior to being chosen 2011 Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassador if any of the tests made her nervous, Budge replied that the toughest part of the testing was participating in the personal interview in front of the 300 or so guests assembled in the ballroom at Salem's Red Lion Hotel.
"But with the lights right in your eyes, you can't see all the people and judges looking at you," she said, adding that she could relax because "it was like they were never there!"
Maril Rueck, of Oregon Dairy Women and state director of the Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassador program for the past 14 years, said that over that time the number of dairy farming families has dropped "from about 450-465 to the 200s today."
Because of that statistic, she said the program has expanded its criteria for application from not just daughters of dairy families to those young women who work on dairies, have parents in the industry or who worked on a dairy FFA or 4-H project in high school or are studying dairy agriculture in college.
"We've become more involved in the job of educating the young citizens of Oregon," Rueck said. "The No. 1 true purpose for the position of Oregon Dairy Princess-Ambassador is to talk to our target zone of kindergarten through third-graders about dairy farming, about their food that comes from dairy farming."
The ambassador program is a natural for that age group, she added.
"The crown we put on (the princess-ambassador's) head is only a focal point," Rueck said. "When kids see that a princess is in the room, they really listen."
Budge said she was involved in dairy 4-H and FFA at Sherwood High School. She received over $1,600 in scholarships after being crowned, and will receive more at the end of her reign.
Emerson received $11,600 when her time as princess-ambassador ended at the Red Lion on Jan. 15.