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The Milk Tradition

“Winners Drink Milk” is considered one of the most beloved phrases and traditions in Indiana and all of sports.

The tradition started at the Indianapolis 500 by driver Louis Meyer simply requesting buttermilk to quench his thirst after the 1936 race. The Drink of Milk has since evolved from a thirst satisfying beverage to a ceremonial hand-off with an Indiana dairy farmer giving the iconic, glass bottle of milk to the winner with over 250,000 people watching in-person and more worldwide.

Each year, two Indiana dairy farmers carry out the “Winners Drink Milk” tradition in the Victory Circle of the Indianapolis 500. The dairy farmers represent their colleagues’ hard and dedicated work to bring the nutritious drink to so many. A ‘Rookie’ is selected each year, who spends the first year “training,” and delivers bottles of milk to the winning Chief Mechanic and the winning Team Owner. The following year the Rookie becomes the official Milk Person and is given the honor of handing the ice-cold bottle of milk to the winning driver of the Indy 500.

The drivers are asked for their milk preferences before the race: fat-free, 2% or whole milk. Whole milk is the most popular choice by the drivers.

Meet your 2020 indy 500 milk people

In 2020, Jill Houin from Plymouth, Indiana will proudly serve as the official Milk Person, handing off the bottle of milk to the winning driver. Tim Haynes from Garrett, Indiana will serve as the Rookie Milk Person. They are looking forward to representing dairy farmers everywhere. Watch for them on race day in Victory Circle!

Jill houin

2020 Milk Woman

Born in New Jersey and never having been on a farm, veteran Milk Person Jill Houin experienced culture shock when she married an Indiana dairy farmer named Brian Houin in 2004. Learning to adapt to the country lifestyle, she retired from teaching in 2016 and has become the calf manager at the family’s Homestead Dairy in Plymouth.

Jill also handles all of the farm’s social media, manages its website and gives farm tours to people of all ages who want to learn more about life on a modern dairy farm. She has a passion for teaching consumers about the dairy industry and the way farmers care for their animals and for the environment.

Homestead Dairy is deeply committed to taking care of the land and community where they farm. A methane digester at the farm converts manure into electricity for 1,000 homes an hour in Marshall County. A partnership with University of Notre Dame also collects food scraps for the digester, keeping thousands of pounds of food waste out of landfills.

Tim Haynes

2020 Rookie Milk Man

Four generations ago, rookie Milk Person Tim Haynes’ grandfather started Superior Dairy in the 1940’s, and the farm has not been without cows since.  Tim and his family have continued to use new technology to create a comfortable home for the cows they milk. They grow most of the feed for the cows on the farm, and employ robots for milking, cleaning, and feeding the cows. In their “smart barn”, the temperature can be regulated by automatic fans, sprinklers, and curtains. Cows choose when they want to get milked with the robots, and spend the rest of the day lounging in sand beds with access to ample food and water thanks to automatic waterers and a feed robot named Juno.

This level of automation doesn’t mean that the work is done, though! Each family member plays a special role to ensure the cows have everything they need. Tim and his brother David work with their children and spouses to divide the work on the farm. With around 240 cows at the farm, the Haynes family members specialize in crop management, cow care, public relations and more to keep their cows healthy and happy.  

Meet past milk people

ANDREW KUEHNERT​

2019 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
My favorite memory of the race was the moment when I handed the milk to the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. The amount of excitement and energy associated with the milk toast of victory is an experience I will never forget. I am very proud and honored to have had the opportunity to not only represent my family farm and farm families across Indiana, but to also represent all dairy farms across the world.

What was the most surprising moment
The most surprising moment was the excitement of fans wanting to see the milk bottle and take a picture of it in the cooler before the race. The winning milk bottle has become an iconic trophy over the years, and it was amazing to see the excitement of people wanting to be associated with the milk bottle.

Do you have any advice for the future milk people of the 500?
My advice to the future milk people would be to project your passion for what dairy means to you. The Indianapolis 500 gives dairy farmers the platform to showcase how passionate dairy farmers are about cows, so it is imperative for the milk people to share about what they do for a living to provide food for the world and how much they care for their animals and the environment. Lastly, be sure you have fun and take every moment in because it goes by quickly.

Share an interesting or unique fact about your farm about anything that you want:
Dairy farming has been in my family for over 120 years. My brother and I are the 5th generation involved. We strive every day to provide the highest quality milk from our farm to the market.

Kim Minich

2018 Milk Woman

What was your favorite memory at the race?
My favorite memory was being in Victory Circle and the palpable excitement you could feel from everyone involved. It was such an honor to present Will Power with that cold bottle of milk.

What was the most surprising moment?
How many people are there? It was packed and everyone was so excited to see the milk in the cooler.

Do you have any advice for the future milk people of the 500?
Really just enjoy every minute of it and try not being nervous.

Share an interesting or unique fact about your farm about anything that you want:
We milk mostly Holsteins and about 150 Jersey cows. The Jerseys are smaller yet produce high fat content in their milk. We also have several cows that like to give hugs.

Joe Kelsay

2017 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
Feeling like an international representative for dairy farms on a very grand and very public stage. A special honor which is why it was my favorite. We had media interviews with questions, jokes, tradition and history was shared. The entire event was an incredible life experience.

What was the most surprising moment?
Biggest surprise was the respect given by so many people about the tradition in delivering the milk to the Indy500 winner by so many people.

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Takuma Sato

What is your advice for future milk people?
Make the very most of the opportunity to celebrate milk at a very grand stage of Indy 500. Think about the depth of the role you play as a dairy farmer, as an ambassador regarding milk. Have fun!

Janet Dauge

2016 Milk Woman

What was your favorite memory at the race?
My favorite memory of the race was handing over the bottle of milk to our Fastest Rookie and 500 Winner Alexander Rossi. It of course was a very special year since it was the 100th running of the 500. I got to hand over the bottle in front of a sold-out crowd that hadn’t happened in over a generation. People were sitting in lawn chairs on the plaza just happy to get in the gates and watch it on a jumbo screen. It was such an amazing experience.

What was the most surprising moment?
My surprising moment beyond who the actual winner would be, was when Rookie Milk Person, Joe Kelsey decided to dump the cooler of ice-cold water over my head. Of course, this was after we had handed out the milk and the milk cooler were empty of the bottles.

What is your advice for future milk people?
My advice would be to take time and try to slow down, because it can get very busy, enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. Also take a many picture a possible so you can always look back at the memories.

Share an interesting or unique fact about your farm about anything that you want:
An interesting thing about my farm is our resourcefulness. Everyone talks about being sustainable and I think we do a great job at that. Two major projects we have accomplished was when we bought a used milking parlor, disassembled it ourselves, moved it home piece by piece and reassembled it in our new parlor we had also just built. The next project is when we bought a used Harvestore Slurry and again disassembled it ourselves and moved it home also piece by piece and reassembled it on our farm.

Alan Wright

2015 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
Interviewing with the radios and broadcasters and using the platform to educate and inform viewers about dairy farming. Another favorite memory was handing off the milk to the Juan Montoya.

What was the most surprising moment?
How quickly the whole experience goes by. One moment you are there, and the race is just beginning and the next thing you know the fans are clearing out the racetrack. Another fun memory that Alan has is, when they left their suite to make their way down to the track with 25 laps to go carrying the milk in a cooler to hand to the winner. Right before they got to the winner’s circle, they had to go through security. The security guard at first would not allow him to pass with the cooler in his hand. Alan had to explain that he had the milk for the winner. The security guard had no idea and let him through after inspecting the cooler.

Do you have any advice for the future milk people of the 500?
Be as accessible as you can while soaking in every bit of the experience.

Share an interesting or unique fact about your farm about anything that you want:
From 1950 to 2018 All Wright Farms built their dairy herd up from 9 total cows after selling most of their herd due to a sickness. During this time, they did not buy or bring in another cow from another farm. Instead they were patient and continued to build off their own livestock.

Ken Hoeing

2014 Milk Man 

As the Milk Person in 2014, Ken was honored to be selected by peers to continue the tradition that means so much to those of us involved in the dairy industry here in Indiana, as well as throughout the US. Ken appreciates the support of this tradition by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Hulman-George Family, as they recognize the important place it holds in the hearts of everyone who loves the Indianapolis 500. He took the responsibility of being the Milk Man very seriously, knowing that when someone hears ‘Indianapolis’, they almost always think of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ and that special drink of milk at the end of the race.

Duane Hill

2013 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
My favorite memory was when I handed the milk to Tony Kanaan. Another favorite is when former Purdue basketball player Brian Cardinal said, “Hey there is the Milkman!”

What was the most surprising moment?
The experience when the race ended and we had to navigate through the crowd of fans, reporters, and crew members to hand off the milk.

Do you have any advice for the future milk people of the 500?
Take it all in. Enjoy every bit of the process from being the Rookie to becoming the official Milkman.

Share an interesting or unique fact about your farm about anything that you want:
I’m so thankful to have been raised on a dairy farm with family around me and having the chance to create special bonds with other dairy farmers.

Dave Forgey

2012 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
All the dairy promotion I was able to do during that year.

What was the most surprising moment?
The number of people who recognized me for a long time after the race.

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Dario Franchitti

What is your advice for future milk people?
Do all you can to promote our dairy products.

Richard Thomas

2011 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
It was the most dreaded moment but also the most enjoyable for me. It was the entire moment of giving the milk with the bustle of media going around with Jenni and Franklin. I remember when preparing to give the milk, I was against the wall because space was so tight, my entire body and feet were to the side. There was so much going on, little space but so exhilarating and exciting.

What was the most surprising moment?
Surprising moment was how many questions I was asked if this is a recurring gig, if I would be able to do this as an annual thing but finding out that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Dan Weldon

What is your advice for future milk people?
Have fun! Enjoy every moment of the experience!

Franklin Weaver

2010 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory of the race?
My favorite memory was giving out the milk to the driver. It was really a special moment. Also, I got a kick out of all the interviews for being a part of such a monumental moment. On my way home from the race, I was stopped for an interview on the radio! I was so excited to be a part of that moment that I could not stop talking about it with the interviewer.

What was the most surprising moment?
The interviews for being the “Milk Person” of the year were definitely a surprising part. Along with being stopped on the way home from the race, I was also asked for another interview while planting corn one day. Another surprising moment was the safety precautions he had to keep in mind when giving out the milk such as not touching the car because it was so hot or not to get too close to the car when it went into the pit.

Who won that year you delivered the milk?
Dario Franchitti

What is your advice for future milk people?
Relax and tell it like it is. One person said they drank a glass of milk. Then, I replied, “Oh, great! Drink two more.”

Sam Schwoeppe

2009 Milk Woman

What was your favorite memory at the race?
Met Rupert Boneham from Survivor at the Indy 500 and learned about his work with foster care and how he raises money to support the kids during their transition time from moving out from foster care to foster homes. The thing about 500 is that it’s all about the people you meet and the relationships you make and new things you learn. Being a part of a tradition in Indiana that is so special to so many Indiana natives was amazing to me and I am grateful to be a part of that moment. Also sharing this moment with my son made it even more special and we got a snapshot of a family picture to cherish the memories.

What was the most surprising moment?
They asked me if there will be soy or almond milk and replied that there will only be real milk and no nut milk, said this on TV and not sure if that was appropriate to say.

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Helio Castroneves

What is your advice for future milk people?
Talk to people, ask questions! Get to know people and make new friends!

Anita Schmitt

2008 Milk Woman

What was your favorite memory at the race?
It was exciting and fun, had a great time with Sam Shwoeppe and always have a great time with her. This is the top 10 most exciting things to do and exciting to be in Wintercircle during that time. One of the racecar drivers saw that we were covered in milk after the milk splashing at the end of the race and said that we can stay with them as they were celebrating, so exciting to really be a part of the moment. Very special memory to share the moment with the winners, emotions running high, happiness, and excitement at its peak.

What was the most surprising moment?
As a rookie, I got stuck on 16th street…left the hotel 4:30a in the morning and got stuck for 5 hours, waiting to get into the Indy500 event. It was the uncertainty of getting in that was a surprise.

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Scott Dixon

What is your advice for future milk people?
Have fun, go with the flow! It’s an experience of a lifetime, you won’t be able to do it again. Make the most of the experience!

Merrill Kelsay

2007 Milk Man

As one of the first Indy 500 Milk Men, Merrill Kelsay represented dairy farmers with pride. The sixth generation of the Kelsay family continues to farm on the same homestead that was land-granted to the family in 1837 by President Martin Van Buren. Even though Merrill passed away in 2016, his passion for the dairy community lives on in his family.

Steve Phares

2006 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
It is my favorite and a very proud moment as well. Merrill Kelsey and I proposed this idea to have farmers hand the milk to the winning race car driver and to have that idea become a reality was so special. Also, I remember during the event, I was having a radio interview with Dana Kopatrick, once that was finished we needed to grab the glass bottles with the milk in it from our coolers and as we were walking back to the event, an event security guard stopped us and wouldn’t let us in because we were in possession of glass materials. We let him know who we were, and the security guard said he’d come back to us once he verified the information with someone higher up. Once he came back, he ushered us in. That moment was a memorable one because we were so close to not giving the milk to the winner! Another favorite moment was when I handed the milk bottle over to the winner Sam Hornish, he took a swig of the milk and then twirled the bottle, so the milk splashed on all of us in 90-degree weather! We ended up smelling like how we normally do when working on the farm, sour milk! Memorable, exciting and smelly!

What was the most surprising moment?
When Sam Hornish won, I wasn’t expecting that as the race was progressing. It didn’t look like he was going to win but at the end it happened for him.

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Sam Hornish

What is your advice for future milk people?
This is a great opportunity for us farmers to showcase our farms and what we do as a dairy farmer. And this is the one day you get to be a rock star for a day, enjoy it!

Paul Mills

2005 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
Listening to the race as a kid, I never dreamed of being there; being at the winners circle! That year, the ABC announcer took the milk bottle and handed off to driver. We didn’t let that happen again!

What was the most surprising moment?
How well received the milk was, what an honor bottle of milk has in Indy.

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Dan Wheldon, he was a great driver and we were heartbroken after his accident.

What is your advice for future milk people?
Just have fun!

Don Gurtner

2004 Milk Man

What was your favorite memory at the race?
That year tornados were coming through and at the end of the race they rushed everyone inside. No one knew what was going on, it was mass chaos, and somehow I ended up in an elevator shaft. It wasn’t the experience I was expecting but it ended up being a great time.

What was the most surprising moment?
The chaos and tornado situation.

Who won the year you delivered the milk?
Buddy Rice

What is your advice for future milk people?
Relax and go with the flow. Represent dairy farms the best they can.

LEARN MORE ABOUT INDY 500 TRADITIONS

For those of you who haven’t spent time in Indiana during Memorial Day weekend,  it’s difficult to comprehend the importance of certain Indy 500 traditions, one being the drink of milk by the winning driver at the end of the race (also dubbed the “Sport World’s Coolest Prize” by Sports Illustrated). Before the start of the race, the ceremonies are so powerful–evoking so much emotion– such as ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. Start your engines’ that gives me goose bumps each year.

Fastest Rookie Luncheon

Since 1975, the American Dairy Association Indiana has honored the Fastest Rookie driver who qualifies for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.  This is the longest running continuous sponsorship at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it’s one that we treasure.  The term “rookie” might be a little misleading, as all of the drivers that are part of the Fastest Rookie Luncheon have many years of experience and miles under their belts.  They are part of this event during their first year driving in the Indy 500.  The winning rookie is determined by recording the fastest four-lap average speed among his or her fellow rookie competitors on Qualification Day.

PAST MONTH OF MAY Festivities

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