Since their reign began in June, Lebanon County Dairy Princess Evelyn Troutman and Alternate Dairy Princess Mackenzie Thomas have promoted dairy products and the industry throughout the county.

The dairy royalty average three promotions per day.

The Lebanon County Dairy Court. From left to right: Jesslyn Risser (Dairy Maid), Jocelyn Troutman (Dairy Maid), Mackenzie Thomas (Alternate Dairy Princess), Nolan Troutman (Dairy Ambassador), Evelyn Troutman (Dairy Princess), Crystal Bomgardner (PA State Alternate Dairy Princess), Kylee Hlavaty (Dairy Maid), Abigail Eberly (Lil’ Dairy Miss), and Madalyn Troutman (Dairy Miss). (Provided by Evelyn Troutman)

While Troutman and Thomas both wear crowns, they entered the dairy industry in distinct ways.

“I am the seventh generation of Troutmans to live on my family’s dairy farm. So, I have been brought up on our family’s dairy farm,” Troutman, a Lebanon County native, said. “Farming is a huge passion of mine. It’s something that I have been into all my life and will continue to do after I graduate high school.”

Troutman comes from generations of dairy farmers. And Thomas works at a dairy farm part-time.

“Dairy farming has brought, honestly, the best out in me,” Thomas, also a Lebanon County native, said. “I know it sounds cliché, but it’s every single day, you’re waking up super early, and it demands everything. Cows don’t take a day off. You can’t not go out and do your job when a cow’s having a calf at midnight, it’s freezing, it’s hailing, it’s storming, it’s you-name-it, it’s 100 degrees. You’re always out there, and you don’t get to take a break. But it’s the hardest and the best part, I think, of my life.”

A mechanical, “milkable” cow named Allie Moo was featured at the Lebanon Area Fair for fairgoers to “milk.” (Provided by Evelyn Troutman)

Troutman and Thomas were also introduced to the organization that runs the dairy princess pageant and the dairy promotion program differently.

Troutman has been involved with the Lebanon County Dairy Promotion since she was 5 years old, when she was a Lebanon County Little Dairy Miss. She was later a Lebanon County Dairy Maid.

“For me, [those experiences] really helped me prepare for where I am today with dairy princess and everything that I’ve been doing with dairy princess because you really learn the program, you learn more about what you’re going to be doing, and you get to watch the other dairy princesses during your reign. [You get to] see what they do. You get to talk to them. And you make lifelong friendships with them,” Troutman said.

Thomas’s current ambitions of educating the public about how many local farmers are looking for help and how they can support these farmers connected her to the Lebanon County Dairy Promotion.

“I was told by a lot of people, ‘You’d never be able to get into farming. It’s a really closed society. Like, if you don’t have any farming connections to your family, you might as well forget about it,'” Thomas said. “But I saw this listing. And I had been working on a dairy farm for quite a while. And my boss is very, very, very into advocating for agriculture.”

Thomas continued, “And I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to share my story of a kid not coming from a farm background and getting onto a farm and just living out my dream because somebody gave me a chance.”

Thomas poses at a promotion. (Provided by Mackenzie Thomas)

Leading up to the pageant, the princess candidates each created a skit promoting dairy for younger children. Messaging dealt with how farmers care for the environment, animal care, and food safety.

The candidates also wrote a speech about one of eight dairy-related topics. The skit and the speech were each three to five minutes in length.

During the pageant, the candidates were each interviewed by a panel of judges. They also responded to an impromptu question in front of the audience. The pageant audience consisted of about 200 people, including local farmers.

Thomas named her skit, where audience members guessed dairy facts in Wheel of Fortune fashion, as her favorite part of the pageant.

Megan Hostetter, senior champion at the Lebanon Area Fair, poses with her cow and the dairy royalty. (Provided by Evelyn Troutman)

“At the end of the night, Evelyn was crowned princess, and I was crowned alternate princess,” Thomas said. “It was a good night, though. It was a very good competition.”

According to Thomas, the responsibilities for dairy princess and alternate dairy princess are pretty similar.

Troutman and Thomas do most promotions together. Troutman attends a slightly higher number of events and is more invested in the social media aspect in hopes of winning awards and scholarships at the end of the month.

Thomas, left, and Troutman hold one of the baby baskets donated to Good Samaritan Hospital. (Provided by Evelyn Troutman)

Echoes of Troutman’s experience as a little dairy miss can be found in her experiences with children as a dairy princess.

“So far this year, my favorite part would definitely have to be when … I get to work with [little kids] in different promotion settings. They come up to me at different events and say, ‘I saw you. You were at my school.’ or ‘I saw you at this place.’ And they tell me what I talked to them about,” Troutman said. “And that just makes me so happy to know that I made an impact somewhere in Lebanon County, even if it was just in a little kid’s heart.”

In just over two months, Thomas has had similar experiences as a dairy princess with children.

“I think the most valuable experience that I’ve had so far is just the way that … the younger generation watches you,” Thomas said. “And whenever they see a crown, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. That’s a real princess.’

“I just think it’s so awesome to be able to not only inspire but to show the younger generation how important it is to just be a good, kind person willing to understand where everybody is coming from because that’s the point of all this. We’re trying to bridge farmers and consumers.”

Troutman reads a book during a library program. (Provided by Evelyn Troutman)

Looking towards the future, Troutman, currently a senior, plans to attend a one-year school of discipleship at Miracle Mountain Ranch, at 101 Rodeo Drive in Spring Creek, after high school. After the program, Troutman sees herself settling down, becoming sustainable on a farmette, and continuing to promote agriculture.

And for rising senior Thomas’s foreseeable future, she plans to continue working for her current boss. She also plans to run for Lebanon County Dairy Princess in 2023 and dreams of becoming the PA State Dairy Princess.

From left to right: Kelly Bliss (PA State Alternate Dairy Princess), Thomas, Mikayla Davis (PA State Dairy Princess), Troutman, and Crystal Bomgardner (PA State Alternate Dairy Princess). (Provided by Mackenzie Thomas)

Troutman concluded with a key message: “I remind everyone to get their three servings of dairy every day because you should have at least three servings because that is what our bodies need. Milk is packed with 13 essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function properly, two of them being calcium and protein. Calcium helps our bones and it helps our teeth because we need strong bones and strong teeth. And protein helps our muscles grow, and milk is full of protein, and it’s a really good source if you’re looking for another way to get your protein in.”

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Lexi Gonzalez has worked as a reporter with LebTown since 2020. She is a Lancaster native and became acquainted with Lebanon while she earned her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.