From humble beginnings, World Dairy Expo has grown to be one of the finest dairy trade and dairy cattle shows in the country, said WDE General Manager Scott Bentley as he opened the 50th anniversary show in Madison on Tuesday morning.
“The road has not been easy, but we are proud of the brand,” he added during opening ceremonies held in front of the two New Holland Pavilions, which were new to the show grounds in 2014.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said that the show has grown over its five decades to be “one of the largest trade shows on the planet – not just in the state of Wisconsin or the country. It gets the world’s attention.”
Parisi said that he’s proud that the county – which owns the grounds on which the show has been held each year – is one of the nation’s top dairy counties and that it can also host such a prestigious dairy event. A few years ago, he added, the facilities used by the show had gotten worn down and other venues started to woo World Dairy Expo to leave Madison.
At that time Dane County, the State of Wisconsin, led by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and big users of the Alliant Energy Center got together and worked on a plan to build the two pavilions. That process, said Parisi, “gave us the world class facilities that have allowed World Dairy Expo to stay and made this one of the premier destinations in the state.”
Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel, who threw his influence behind the plans to get the new pavilions built several years ago, said that doubtless the original masterminds of Dairy Expo “never had any idea it would look like this 50 years later.”
At that show, which he attended as a high school junior, there were a few hundred animals, a couple of commercial exhibitors “and a lot of enthusiasm,” Brancel said. At that first show and sale, young Brancel bid and bought a dairy heifer calf and says he had to call and explain to his dad what he had done and why.
Brancel tells another story that illustrates how World Dairy Expo is seen around the world. “A few years ago I met a Pakistani man who was the most elderly person in his village. It was his lifelong dream to come to World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. When I talked to him, tears streamed down his face, he was so happy he got to be here. That’s what it’s all about.”
Al Deming, president of the board of World Dairy Expo said he and the board were excited for all the stakeholder of Expo including the 500 volunteers that help make it happen. “Everyone is here to celebrate a 50-year journey.”
From the humble beginnings that Brancel spoke of to this year’s show with a projected 70,000 dairy enthusiasts from 100 countries in attendance, 875 commercial exhibitors and 2,500 of North America’s very best dairy cattle, the changes have been dramatic, Deming said.
“Very strong partnerships have made this what it is today,” he said.
In 1995, facilities were upgraded with the addition of the Exhibition Hall and its 255,000 square feet of indoor space. In 2014, a partnership allowed the addition of the New Holland Pavilions, which include 290,000 square feet of space with a state-of-the-art milking parlor and ventilation system.
Deming said one thing that hasn’t changed is the 1967 globe that was donated to Expo to symbolize the reach of the show around the world. “It stands idle during the year until World Dairy Expo comes around and then it starts to turn.”
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Expo organizers wanted to add to the show grounds another iconic gift that would symbolize what the show means to the dairy industry. He then unveiled a carefully carved stone dairy cow, which was designed to represent qualities from the seven major dairy breeds.
Expo staff brainstormed with Dairy Cattle Show coordinator Laurie Breuch and came up with “Miss Madison” – a 6,900-pound cow that was carved out of a 47,000 chunk of stone that was selected by Breuch.
After a three-dimensional model and a limestone mockup were created and tested, robotic and human carvers set to work to create the large stone cow sculpture out of a deeply veined brown stone called Mahogany from the Dakotas. Carving robots worked on the sculpture 24 hours a day for five weeks with German, Italian and locally grown workmen handling some of the trickier work at Quarra Stone Company in Madison.
Breuch said that the coloring of the stone was important and she spent a considerable amount of time looking for just the right block of stone with the help of Frank Meier from Quarra Stone.
He explained that this isn’t just a sculpture of a cow. She had to be engineered with steel rods in her legs to hold up the massive amount of weight contained in the upper part of the sculpture.
Then, about a week ago, when the sculpture was tested, there was a glitch. The wrong calculations had been made and the rods weren’t beefy enough. Calls were made; new threaded rods were built and installed so Miss Madison could be unveiled in time for Expo’s opening.
The project is near and dear to the heart of Meier, who grew up on a dairy farm in South Wayne and saw a lot of cows in his youth. “She really looks like the kind of cow you see on a farm.”
He and his team placed her on a slab of whiter stone that was textured to look like grass and her position is like that of dairy cows being professionally photographed -- her front feet are higher than her rear ones.
Miss Madison was unveiled at the northeast corner of the pavilions, facing toward the Coliseum, which is going to be her permanent location on the grounds. It’s just across the street from the iconic, turning globe.
Sculpture representing the world of cows unveiled during Expo’s opening ceremony