Salute to Dairy ready to crown royalty

One of two contestants vying for this year’s Dairy Princess will be crowned at this year’s in person Salute to Dairy event being held at new location of the Tulare Fairgrounds

TULARE – After a two year hiatus, Salute to Dairy is returning with the 36th Annual Tulare County Dairy Princess Coronation at the Tulare County Fairgrounds. At the event, one of the two contestants will be chosen for this year’s princess, Dairy Family of the Year will be awarded and ten scholarships will be awarded to high school students at the event.

Madison Andrade
District 5 Dairy Princess Candidate

After taking two years off due to the pandemic, the Tulare Chamber of Commerce, the Tulare County Dairy Women and the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) plan on bringing a “wow factor” in with this year’s Salute to Dairy event. Two high school Juniors from Visalia, Heiltje de Jong and Madison Andrade, will go through the final steps before one of them is crowned District 5 Dairy Princess.

“This event allows us to celebrate [family dairies], and recognize them for their hard work, for their dedication, for what they do for our community,” Kiley Arce, Director of Marketing with the Chamber of Commerce said.  “[The dairy industry] has grown our Valley so much and strengthened our community…So we put this on to recognize and celebrate the industry. And we’re excited to be able to host an event in person again, to show that true recognition.”

Heiltje de Jong
District 5 Dairy Princess Candidate

On June 10, the 36th annual Salute to Dairy and Dairy Princess Coronation will take place at the Tulare County Fairgrounds Expo Building 3. The event will start at 6 p.m. featuring a wine and cheese social and silent auction. Dinner will follow at 7 p.m. with the presentation of awards in celebration of local dairy producers and distributors. This event is held in honor of the county’s top agricultural product, milk. In comparison to previous years, there will be an even larger variety of flavored milk available for tasting throughout the event according to Arce.

Since 2019, this is the first year the event will be held in person. According to Arce, the fairgrounds are showcasing one of their Expo buildings, “we’re actually going above and beyond with decorations and, the venue itself, to really showcase the in person aspect and just give everyone that wow factor when they walk in.”

This year judges will choose between two contestants de Jong and Andrade, for Dairy Princess. De Jong currently attends Central Valley Christian and plans to attend Dordt University to pursue a nursing degree. She grew up on her family’s dairy farm and is an active member of Central Valley High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) as well as a member of 4-H and Youth Group at her church. She plays soccer and volleyball and is the daughter of Arie and Brenda de Jong.

Andrade currently attends Redwood High school and plans to attend California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo to pursue a degree in ag marketing. Andrade has not only received an academic letter each semester of high school but is also an active member in Redwood High School FFA where she serves as Sentinel– an officer position –  competes in speaking competitions and also shows dairy heifers. Andrade participated in American Association of University Women Book Sale, the National Read Across America Book Drive, the Visalia Unified School District Drive Thru Backpack and School Supplies Giveaway, and Read For Life. She is the daughter of Tony and Elizabeth Andrade.

Last year’s princess, Isabella Ribeiro and alternate Sophia Gomes will crown this year’s winners. The newly crowned princess will serve as an ambassador for the entire dairy industry and represent Inyo, Mono and Tulare Counties. Of the two contestants, one will be crowned princess and the other will be the alternate. Both the 2022 Dairy Princess and Dairy Princess Alternate will receive training and professional development coaching from the CMAB.

Tulare County Dairy Women member and 2003-2004 Dairy Princess Amie Pitigliano, said the training is beneficial and helps educate individuals and sharpen speaking and interviewing skills. “[The training] is always fun, they bring all the dairy princesses and alternates together,”  Pitigliano said. “Not only are they getting public speaking pointers, but they learn about the industry, the facts, they tour different facilities and they go through etiquette training.”

In addition to the coronation, Salute to Dairy also recognizes a local dairy family each year for their hard work, production and community engagement. This year the Mendonsa Dairy family will be recognized as the Dairy Family of the Year. Additionally, ten high school students will be awarded scholarships. 

Tulare County has long been recognized as one of the top agricultural producing counties in the world and its top ag product, milk, has only strengthened the industry further in recent years. According to the most recent Tulare County Crop and Livestock Report, milk accounts for 26.1% of the agricultural value in Tulare County and is only growing. 

According to Tom Tucker, the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner / Sealer, at last count, about 20% of all the diaries in California are in Tulare County. He also said 99% of the dairies in Tulare County are family owned. 

Tickets can be purchased by contacting The Tulare Chamber Of Commerce at (559) 686-1547. Tickets also can be purchased by contacting Amie Pitigliano at (559) 799-3487 or Kortnee Faria at (559) 905-5813.

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