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Rock County native takes Alice crown
Alice in Dairyland 1
Newly-named Wisconsin Alice in Dairyland Abigail Martin, left, joins immediate former Alice in Dairyland Kaitlyn Riley at the Alice in Dairyland post-finals press conference in Monroe Saturday, May 11. - photo by Matt Johnson

MONROE — Abigail Martin said she was “honored, humbled and grateful” after being named Wisconsin’s 72nd Alice in Dairyland on Saturday.

Martin, whose four-generation family farm is in Rock County, was one of five finalists for the position of Alice. The job is spent as a year-long ambassador for agriculture, employed by the Wisconsin’s Department of Trade, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Alice in Dairyland makes several hundred appearances during a year, promoting agriculture throughout Wisconsin.

“I’m excited to relate to consumers and help their understanding of Wisconsin agriculture,” Martin said. “It’s a really important job.”

Alice in Dairyland 2
Wisconsin’s 71st Alice in Dairyland Kaitlyn Riley, left, embraces and congratulates Abigail Martin, who was named Wisconsin’s 72nd Alice in Dairyland, at the Alice finals hosted by Green County in Monroe. - photo by Matt Johnson

The finale was preceded by three days of tours and events in Green County for the five finalists. The emcee for Saturday’s finals, Monroe businessman and community leader Dave Mosher, called the event  “the toughest job interview in Wisconsin.”

Green County organizers had been working nearly two years as the host of the 72nd event, which included visits to farms and agribusinesses in Monroe, Brodhead, New Glarus and Albany. Trisha Pernot and Lynn Lokken served as co-chairs of the Green County Alice in Dairyland Committee.

Martin graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 with a degree in dairy science and has been working with DeLaval Inc. in marketing and communications.

I’m excited to relate to consumers and help their understanding of Wisconsin agriculture. It’s a really important job.
Abigail Martin, Alice in Dairyland

Martin had competition from Tess Zettle of Juda, Mariah Martin of Rock County, Cassandra Krull of Jefferson County and Sarah Achenbach of Crawford County. All of the contestants were graduates of University of Wisconsin System colleges and had long resumes of participation, volunteerism or employment in agriculture.

Saturday night’s finale included clips from interviews the candidates had given, and both impromptu and prepared public speaking. A three-member panel had been evaluating eight different criteria for all of the candidates since Thursday.

When DATCP Secretary Brad Pfaff announced Abigail Martin had been named “Alice,” she expressed excitement before receiving the tiara from outgoing Wisconsin Alice in Dairyland Kaitlyn Riley.

Immediately after the announcement, Martin was whisked away to a private meeting with DATCP officials where she signed a contract to serve as Alice. Martin was ready for her first official interview and photo session as “Alice” moments later, admitting her legs felt a little wobbly.

Alice in Dairyland Tess Zettle
Juda’s Tess Zettle prepares to answer a question during the 72nd Annual Wisconsin Alice in Dairyland finals in Monroe on Saturday, May 11. - photo by Matt Johnson

She said her three days in Green County during the Alice finals had been interesting because the planned visits centered mainly on family-owned companies and agriculture-related businesses that had roots in the community. Stops included Wegmeuller Farm, Swiss Colony Bakery and Klondike Cheese in Monroe; Kuhn-Knight and Applied Ecological Services in Brodhead; and the New Glarus Brewery.

Martin said she had been familiar with the Alice in Dairyland program most of her life, but specifically chose to apply for the position when she saw how it would mesh with her “passion for the agricultural industry.”

The finale was bittersweet for Riley, who had logged more than 33,000 miles traveling across Wisconsin in the last year serving as “Alice.” As the panel deliberated, Riley talked about all the different shoes the person in Alice’s position has to wear.

You only have one year — make every step count
Kaitlyn Riley, 2018 Alice in Dairyland

“You only have one year — make every step count,” Riley, of Crawford County, said. 

She called her experience over the last year a “crazy dream.”

Riley named 60th Alice in Dairyland, Jill Makovec — a native of Muscoda — the “Friend of Alice” for 2019. Riley and Makovec spent a poignant moment together on stage during which both shed tears and talked about the tradition of Alice in Dairyland.

“The hardest emotions come with saying goodbye,” Riley said.

At past finals, the location of only the succeeding year’s finals were announced. For planning purposes, DATCP allowed Mosher to announce the location for the next three Alice in Dairyland finals, which will be held in Walworth County in 2020, Dunn County in 2021 and Dane County in 2022.