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Every year, a new Indiana dairy farmer gears up for the most critical milk-related job at the Indianapolis 500: physically handing the bottle of milk to the winning driver. In the chaos of Victory Circle, it’s more difficult than you would think to pass a bottle successfully to the winning driver. We’ve had Milk People (that’s the official name for these dairy farmers) who sat the cooler down on the ground and almost weren’t able to get it opened (it’s that crowded) in time for the hand off. One Milk Man wasn’t sure he handed the bottle to that year’s winner  and was worried someone else had grabbed it (we checked the replay–good news, the driver got it). It’s chaotic, it’s adrenaline-filled, and it’s fast. Sort of like the race itself.

Duane and Tony Kanaan 2013

This year, we thought we would ask former Milk People what advice they have for this year’s dairy farmers, Milk Woman Kim Minich and Rookie Milk Man Andrew Kuehnert. Here’s what they had to say:

Ken Hoeing, Rushville

Ken with milkDOM_3192

“Don’t drop the bottle. Have fun and enjoy! It’s quite an honor to represent all dairy farmers out there, so take time to appreciate that. One of my favorite things was meeting all the people you would never cross paths with normally. We met Mayor Ballard [former mayor of Indianapolis] and Mike and Karen Pence, back when he was the governor. You also meet all kinds of race car drivers and Indy car people, plus radio and TV hosts. Have fun and enjoy.”

(My note: I thought it was pretty funny when we were filming Ken’s Rookie Milk Man video, our wonderful creative videographer Terry wanted to film Ken driving around in a tractor. Terry also thought it would be fun to have Ken repeatedly put this very large tractor back in the machine shed and then drive it out again. It’s not super easy to put a tractor into a machine shed.)

Duane Hill, Fountain City

duane hill

“One of the greatest things I’d like for them to remember is don’t let it get away too fast. What a beautiful ride it is to be a dairy farmer and to be the Milk Man. I’ll always remember the funniest thing that happened to me is seeing Brian Cardinal, a former Purdue basketball player, and having him recognize me for being the Milk Man. He says ‘You’re the Milk Man!’ and I said ‘You’re Brian Cardinal!’ It was just great.”

(My note: Brian Cardinal was a professional basketball player as well and was on a team that won an NBA championship in 2011, just two years before Duane met him. To Duane, he will always be a Purdue Boilermaker.)

Alan Wright, Muncie

alan wright (2)

“Just enjoy it. As soon as the race is over, you’re done, so savor it. You have no idea how many people are watching and you are really affecting their lives. The milk is so important and means so much to people. Enjoy the people you meet–whether they are big shots or race fans who want a picture. Realize how important that bottle is, it holds a lot of glory down there. Don’t be afraid to answer questions. It’s so important to speak from your heart when you get to talk about dairy farming.”

(My note: The year Alan was the milk man was the same year he first attended the Indianapolis 500. Typically out on the farm while the race occurred, it became a tradition to listen on the radio. Alan was thrilled he could add to the tradition of milk at the track while also watching from a better seat than he ever had on the farm!)

Janet Dague, Kewanna

janet head shot

“It’s a whirlwind of activity, so take time to see the honor and privilege to represent our dairy farmers. On race day, look around and see all the people. Be out and about to see the whole day as it is. Actually handing the milk to the winning driver was my favorite part. We aren’t supposed to have favorites, but it was great to watch that year’s Fastest Rookie, Alexander Rossi, get such an exciting finish and win the race.”

(My note: Janet wins the award for the biggest race fan ever to be the Milk Person–she and her family go to the 500 every year. She also wins the best sport award–her Rookie Milk Man, Joe, decided to pour a cooler full of ice and water over her head, thus creating a new tradition to celebrate the end of the May race season.)

Joe Kelsay, Whiteland

Joe Kelsay

“Every tradition is important at the Indy 500, but perhaps one of the most significant is the milk tradition, for the fans, the drivers, the city of Indianapolis, IndyCar, and dairy farmers. Think about the significance this event represents for all of us, and make it greater than ever. Have fun and enjoy your moment in history on behalf of the dairy farmers and the Indy fans.”

(My note: In addition to dumping a cooler on top of Janet, Joe handcuffed the cooler to his arm, convinced us to reach out to Yeti coolers to see if they would furnish a cooler for the milk, pushed for an armored truck and bodyguards for pre-race milk media interviews, and in general had too much fun coming up with new ideas.)

2016 rossi and janet