The 65th annual Alice in Dairyland Finals will be held in Grant County this weekend.
The event showcases one of the most recognizable representatives of Wisconsin agriculture.
The selection final will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Velzy Commons at Ullsvik Hall at UW–Platteville. The banquet will be held at 5 p.m. Dinner tickets are available for $25 or for $10 attendees can gain admittance to the finals only.
An impromptu question-and-answer session for all of the finalists will be held at Holiday Gardens in Potosi Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The Alice in Dairyland representative is one of the state’s agricultural ambassadors. As a public relations specialist with the Division of Agricultural Development at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, “Alice” promotes Wisconsin’s agriculture and agribusinesses. She works with the media, speaks with rural and urban audiences, and teaches students about all aspects of Wisconsin agriculture.
The first Alice was Margaret Blott McGuire of Highland. The first selection from Grant County was Jill Makovec of Montfort in 2007.
Angela Rule Udelhofen, a Mineral Point native who now is assistant chancellor for admission and enrollment services at UW–Platteville, was named Alice in Tomah in 1994. The finals that year were held in Tomah.
“The program has come a long way,” said Udelhofen, recalling how the finalists had to participate in a cooking demonstration.
Udelhofen has fond memories of her time serving as Alice. “The program is special,” she said. “It has helped me become the person I am today. It changes your life.”
As for advice for this year’s “Alice,” Udelhofen suggests she be flexible, have a sense of humor, and never forget where she comes from.
The last time the “Alice” finals were held in Grant County was at UW–Platteville in 1986, when Liz Henry of Dane was chosen.
Henry initially applied for the program the previous year, but was not selected. She applied again for the 1986 finals and was selected. “I was exposed to all types of agricultural businesses and activities,” she said.
Henry said working for a year as “Alice” changed her life. Henry noted her experience as Alice has assisted her in all of her career advancements over the years.
Henry admitted she was “scared to death” leading up to the finals; however, she wanted to be selected to serve as one of the state’s agricultural representatives.
The event will offer another opportunity to showcase Platteville and Grant County, as well as UW–Platteville. Co-chair Jackie Bevan hopes for 300 people to attend the finals and 150 people at the question-and-answer session at the Holiday Gardens.
“It will bring a lot of people to this area,” she said. “We’ve been working very hard on this.”
Udelhofen and Hap Daus are also assisting as co-chairs.
In addition to event co-chairs, several committees and subcommittees have been established to organize the event. The volunteers are responsible for all aspects of the finals. These individuals will formulate a report at the conclusion of the finals and forward it to DATCP officials to aid with planning in future years.
This year’s finals is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established through the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, with a budget of $50,000. Donations are still being accepted at www.aliceindairyland.com.
Platteville will be the host city for the finals, with tour stops for the finalists scheduled throughout Grant County. A briefing was held March 22–23, including local tours and a press conference at the UW-Platteville Pioneer Farm for all six of the finalists. Additional tours will be held this weekend. Each of the finalists will offer a presentation of one of the tour stops during the finals.
Katie Wirkus, the 64th Alice, will be the mistress of ceremonies for the question-and-answer session. She will also be present during the finals.
In 1948, “Alice” hosted the Centennial Exposition at Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis. A year later, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture became the sponsor of the Alice in Dairyland program. In 1952, Alice became a one-year full-time contract employee of the department.
Alice in Dairyland logs the equivalent of a trip around the world, and she appears at more than 370 events during her year on the job. Alice visits about 100 schools annually, speaking with mostly fourth-graders. Additionally, she attends numerous agricultural events. Alice also does hundreds of media interviews, generating more than $1 million of coverage for Wisconsin agriculture.
Alice applicants, who must be female Wisconsin residents, undergo a preliminary interview in February.