|By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
EAST LANSING, Mich. — From milk jug bowling to petting calves and sampling dairy treats, it was a Great Dairy Adventure for youths of all ages July 19 at the Michigan Dairy Expo, in conjunction with Michigan State University’s Ag Expo.
In its eighth year, the Great Dairy Adventure attracted about 1,500 participants who spent the day learning about the dairy industry.
United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), a major sponsor of the event, offered recipes and an opportunity for participants to experiment with dairy foods.
“I made a bug out of string cheese and pretzels,” said 8-year old Kodde DeVries of Rockford.
Daycare provider Tina Clendenan of Williamston brought eight children to the event.
“We’ve been here every year,” she said. “We just love it. This is just wonderful. They get to see the cows, touch the cows. They get to do just whatever they want. It’s been lots of fun.”
The events were geared toward educating children and their families about where milk comes from and health benefits of consuming dairy products.
Free ice cream treats, giveaways, drawings and hands-on activities to teach the nutritional benefits of dairy foods were set up throughout the MSU Pavilion at the corner of Farm Lane and Mount Hope Road on MSU’s East Lansing campus. Participants played games, made crafts and petted calves. They also received coloring books and had milk moustache pictures taken with MSU athletes.
Hundreds of dairy cattle were on display as part of the dairy expo. Visitors were encouraged to walk through the displays and see first-hand how dairy cattle are cared for. Producers were on-hand to answer questions.
In addition, visitors were able to watch 4-H events and special activities aimed at teaching them about the dairy industry. More than 200 4-H members and other youths competed in dairy quiz bowl, a cattle show and dairy judging and dairy management contests during the dairy expo.
“The Great Dairy Adventure is our consumer education event,” said Carla McLachlan of the MSU Department of Animal Science, one of the event coordinators. “Our goal is to give urban families the opportunity to learn more about the dairy industry in Michigan … to find out where their milk comes from before it gets to their grocery store.”
McLachlan said industry groups from around the state sponsored the event. Major contributors included UDIM, Michigan Milk Producers Assoc. (MMPA), Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and its Animal Science department.
“They sponsor with products as well as their time and energy to volunteer at this event,” McLachlan said.
Representatives of the State 4-H Youth Development office were on-hand to talk with visitors about 4-H.
“We’re here to introduce kids to 4-H,” said Judy Bishop, a secretary with the state 4-H office. In addition to 4-H information, the group had a display of consumer products and asked participants which were dairy products.
“It’s fun seeing their expressions when they find out where some foods come from,” said Abby Lambert, a student employee in the office. “Some people are very surprised about the ingredients.”
Visitors were able to milk a cow at the MSU Dairy Club’s I Milked A Cow booth.
“We get a lot of questions,” said Dairy Club member Katelyn Thompson of Charlotte who helped the youths squirt milk from the cows. “The little kids get excited, then they’re scared to touch it. When they actually milk the cow it’s cool.”