California girl experiences World Dairy Expo

Katie Migliazzo, For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

I’m exhausted. I mean, absolutely beat. But that’s what happens after you enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

I’m a California girl, growing up in the Central Valley, where my family milks 800 registered Holsteins. Throughout the years, I’ve taken part in virtually everything cow related: showing, quiz bowls, judging, etc. It’s a passion I’m pursuing into my adult life as I approach graduation from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Dairy Science.

So when I got an invitation to spend a full week at the 50th anniversary of the World Dairy Expo, I pretty much had my bags packed before the phone call was over.

I have so many good memories, but here are just a few of the highlights:

“Walking on common ground”

I may live more than 2,000 miles away from Madison; but once I arrived at the Alliant Energy Center, the whole event felt like a family reunion. In my first day alone, I ran into a cousin, a childhood friend, a new friend who spent his summer interning in my home state, and two dear friends I made while interning in the Badger State.

The truth is, World Dairy Expo brings people together. Whether we’re old or new acquaintances, we all arrive with a common bond — a passion for the dairy cow. We speak the same language. We share the same passions. Expo gives us the chance to literally, as well as figuratively, walk on common ground.

As a young professional in this field, we also appreciate the unequaled opportunity to network, make connections and, perhaps, lay the foundation for our own careers. If you love cows and want to spend your life working with them, this is the place to shake hands and share hugs.

Food, food and more food

Thanksgiving has turkey. Easter has ham. But Expo? When it comes to food, what else would you expect but dairy, dairy and — oh yeah — more dairy.

The “must” visit for every attendee is the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Students’ Grilled Cheese & Milkshake Stand. For only $2 a sandwich and $1 a shake, these savvy entrepreneurs are raising money for a great cause — extending educational opportunities for the next generation of dairymen and women. And at those prices, the line at this stand is generally quite long (but don’t worry, they’ve got the whole process down to a science and the queue moves fast!).

If that doesn’t do the trick, other event-appropriate treats include the fried cheese curds (yum!) and the ice cream stand, which featured a special 50th anniversary flavor, “Caramel EXPO-losion” (All ice cream sales, by the way, benefit FFA students. So forget the calories and enjoy eating it without the guilt).

The Music Man

Wonder where the music comes from in the show ring?

Thank Mike Ashworth and his accordion. Mike has been here at World Dairy Expo for 37 years providing our favorite tunes from the top level of the stands. Sure, most young people don’t tune into “Polka Jams” when they’re back home; but for one glorious week each year, we all appreciate his throwback interpretations of nostalgic, toe-tapping favorites.

My favorite song of the week: "Sweet Caroline!" Mike, thank you for letting us sing along for nearly four decades.

Martha Reigns Supreme

The pinnacle moment of every expo is the crowning of a Supreme Champion. The premier cow in each of seven breeds — Holstein, Jersey, Red and White, Guernsey, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss as well as Milking Shorthorn — gets her moment in the spotlight. The air crackles with anticipation as only one can reach the pinnacle honor of Best of the Best.

This year’s Supreme Champ was a beautiful Jersey, Musquie Iatola Martha, who walked across golden shavings to thunderous applause.

I have to admit a little personal bias here: I had the opportunity to spend some of my summer internship at MilkSource Genetics, the home farm and exhibitor of Martha. To share in the team’s celebration — to see their love and care for her rewarded with such a great honor — is something I’ll always cherish. I would also like to extend a congratulations to the Junior show Supreme Champion, the Holstein (Silvermaple Windham Camille) show by a dear California friend, Christian Cunningham!

My weeklong whirlwind at the Greatest Cow Show on Earth is over now, but my memories will last a lifetime. For now, its back to the books as I study for exams, but I have already begun to daydream about next year's trip to Expo.

Katie Migliazzo served as a Wisconsin-based Elanco intern this year.