New Blair County Dairy Royalty Looks Forward to Promotions Ahead


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Shown are Darcy Heltzel (left) and Madison Benfer after the Blair County Dairy Princess Pageant.

As Dairy Month comes to an end, Blair County Dairy Princess Madison Benfer and Dairy Princess Alternate Darcy Heltzel have started their reigns.

A dairy princess must be between 16 and 24; related to a dairy farmer or dairy industry personnel, employed on a dairy farm, or own/show a 4-H dairy animal; and be single, never married with no children.

The 2021 Blair County Dairy Princess Pageant was held Saturday, May 15, in Williamsburg.

Benfer, 18-year-old daughter of Mike and Melissa Benfer of Curryville, is the Dairy Princess. She will be attending Penn State in the fall and majoring in animal science. Benfer has served as a Dairy Maid and a Dairy Ambassador previously. She recently graduated from Central High School and has a younger brother, Mason.

Heltzel is the Dairy Princess Alternate. She is a sophomore at Central High School and is the sister of the last Dairy Princess, Dana Heltzel. Her parents are Andy and Jennifer Heltzel of Martinsburg and she has another sister, Danielle, and a brother, Drew.

June 1 was the first official day of Benfer's reign as a county princess, but she has been involved in dairy since she was 8 years old. Benfer's mother and grandfather got her interested in showing dairy cattle.

"Nowadays, dairy farming is misunderstood," said Benfer. "People think farmers don't take care of their cattle."

Benfer is an advocate for dairy farmers, who care about their cows.

"I also encourage the use of dairy products," said Benfer. "I do this for the hardworking dairy farmers of the Cove."

Benfer officially joined the program a few years ago when her friends were involved.

"I've always been an advocate for dairy," said Benfer. "I just wasn't involved. Joining the program extended my love and passion for dairy."

Alternatively, Heltzel has been involved since she was 4 years old. Heltzel's sister was always involved, and her parents own a dairy farm.

Throughout her time in the program, Heltzel has grown to love and appreciate dairy farming.

"At first, I did not like barn chores," Heltzel said. "Now, I'm starting to help more around the farm."

Heltzel has especially started enjoying milking cows and working with animals.

To become a dairy princess or dairy princess alternate, applicants have to create a skit about a key point in the dairy industry. They also have to prepare a speech on a topic that the Pa. Dairy Princess & Promotion Services provides. Along with this, participants have to answer an impromptu question and are interviewed by judges.

As dairy princess and dairy princess alternate, Benfer and Heltzel have to do a certain number of promotions throughout their reign.

Heltzel said part of her role is creating social media posts. So far, Heltzel has found that the position has taught her a lot about responsibility and time management.

With COVID-19 still around, Benfer and Heltzel had some trouble getting into promotions at the beginning of the month. Dairy royalty does work at nursing homes, which are limited to vaccinated visitors.

Some promotions throughout this year will be virtual, but the program will be returning to in-person events, according to Heltzel.

Benfer and Heltzel both look forward to going into schools to talk to kids about dairy.

Though the pair has only done two promotions so far, Benfer and Heltzel will have a booth at Duncansville Community Days. On the Fourth of July, they will be selling milkshakes during festivities.

In July, the pair will attend the dairy show, where they will give out place ribbons to winners.

"It's just such an honor to represent Blair County dairy farmers," said Heltzel. "I know from experience how much work goes into farming."


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