Alternate princesses for 2019 hail from Chemung and Delaware counties

by Courtney Llewellyn

LIVERPOOL, NY – Standing ovations, grateful tears and a chocolate milk toast were all part of a whirlwind evening that saw the crowning of the 2019 New York State Dairy Princess.

The New York State Dairy Princess program has a storied past, beginning in August 1963 with Nancy Harrington-Hicks being chosen from more than a dozen county princesses to represent the Empire State. This year’s event featured a competition between 22 young women, all vying for the coveted dairy crown. The pageant was sponsored by American Dairy Association North East.

The winner was Reegan Domagala, 18, from Lewis County. The daughter of Nancy and Robert Domagala, she is currently attending SUNY Cortland and studying speech and language pathology. She has been involved in dairy promotion for seven years, including serving as her university’s ambassador in 2017-18.

“I can’t believe it,” Domagala said after her win (she was also named the pageant’s Miss Congeniality). “I’ve loved promoting Lewis County and now I represent the whole state. I kept thinking about my dad and our farm.” She explained her family milks 65 Holsteins in a tiestall barn. Now, she can add promoting New York milk and dairy products with ADA North East to her duties for the next year.

“We understand the true realities of dairy farming, and we want to share that,” Domagala said of her court.

She said she plans to continue the traditions of past dairy princesses during her reign while simultaneously including new things, such as an expanded social media presence. “I want to use the newer technology that’s available,” she said, “especially for those people who live in bigger cities and may have never seen a farm in person.” One way she’d like to do this is through the use of virtual farm tours.

As state princess, Domagala receives a $1,200 scholarship and will work with ADA North East to represent dairy farmers at a variety of special events, including county dairy princess pageants, farmer meetings, fairs and school visits. She will also assist in the training and mentoring of new county dairy princesses.

Alternate State Princess is Alyssa Roorda of Chemung County. The daughter of Karyn and Peter Roorda, Alyssa, 17, is a senior at Horseheads High School and has been in dairy promotion for five years. She will receive a $700 scholarship.

Second Alternate State Princess is Morgan Hungerford, 17, of Delaware County. A senior at South Kortright High School, she is the daughter of Meg and Randy Hungerford, and earned a $600 scholarship through the pageant.

The young women competed in categories such as a personal interview, impromptu questions, a prepared adult speech, a product knowledge exam, a writing skills test and informal interaction with others. Judges evaluated the contestants on their communication skills, their knowledge of the dairy industry and their poise and personality. The judges were Judi Dixon of Dot Foods, Holly Pullis of Hollywood Enterprises and Roedale Farm, and Katherine Brosnan of the New York Beef Council.

Brosnan, a New York State Dairy Princess from a decade ago, said it was extremely tough for the judges to make their final decisions. “The ladies were well-informed and polished,” she said. “We were pleasantly surprised to see the amount of passion, dedication and enthusiasm they had for this competition and for the industry. The county committees are doing a great job of getting more young women enrolled in dairy promotion.”

Saying farewell to the previous court

The crowning of Domagala as the 56th New York State Dairy Princess meant the end of the reign of Hailey Pipher of Elmira, last year’s winner, as well as alternate princesses Alexis Payne and Zoie Skinner.

“I can’t say my dream was to be the New York State Dairy Princess. Growing up I always saw pictures of this pageant on covers of newspapers and never in a million years thought that it would be me,” Pipher said in her farewell address. “I came here because the stories of the dairy farmers that I loved needed to be shared, and the thought of being able to share the stories of people just like them from across the state was what drove me to put my best foot forward.”

Pipher noted a simple “thank you” doesn’t scratch the surface to recognize what New York dairy farmers do every day. “Humility, diligence, sacrifice and perseverance are only a few ways that I’ve described you to hundreds of people this past year,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for trusting our team to share your families’ stories and represent you and your life’s work.”

Pipher ended her speech by telling those crowned during the pageant to give all they have with this opportunity. “You have an incredible year ahead of you,” she said, fighting back tears. “Enjoy it.”