Sept. 10 2017 01:19 PM

In addition to the work of 11 full-time World Dairy Expo staff, more than 400 volunteers contributed their time and talents to the 2016 World Dairy Expo.

The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 100-cow dairy in St. Charles, Ill.
From check-in to sewing to providing leadership, volunteers are the heart blood of the show. Today, there are 128 individuals who have been honored with the title Friend of Expo. Just a few of them are pictured here at an annual gathering. credit: World Dairy Expo
Over its 50-year history, World Dairy Expo has grown and evolved to keep pace in an ever-changing industry, and the people behind the scenes have remained a critical component to its success.

Long-time staff member Ruth Stampfl detailed some of the tasks volunteers help with during the show. “From checking in 800 trade show exhibitors, to making announcements for the eight dairy cattle shows, tabulating 4-H, FFA, and collegiate judging contest results, pricing and tagging items for the Purple Cow Gift Shop, leading tours for the 4th grade students, preparing snacks for 3,000 international visitors, and providing attendee transportation via a tram, volunteers have a hand in nearly every part of World Dairy Expo. All of their hard work adds up to thousands of hours and supports the World Dairy Expo staff in running a successful show,” she said.

While all of the volunteers share a commitment and passion for World Dairy Expo, the group has a diverse range of talents, according to Stampfl. Most are either an active or retired dairy farmer or are an employee of a dairy company or organization.

They provide expertise

Roger Ripley is one volunteer who has contributed his talents to the show since the early developmental years. In 1984, while employed with Tri-State Breeders Cooperative, Ripley joined the World Dairy Expo Board of Directors. He went on to be elected to the executive board and served as vice president and president before he retired from Accelerated Genetics and the World Dairy Expo Board of Directors in 2008.

The board of directors is comprised of 36 members and meets year round to continue discussing challenges and opportunities surrounding Expo.

“World Dairy Expo benefits from both the synergistic work of the board and the unique individual skill set each member brings,” said Ripley. “It’s helped us develop the show into the world-renowned dairy event that it is. By tapping into the talents of our volunteer board members, World Dairy Expo doesn’t always incur the expense of engaging with outside experts.”

For example, because of Ripley’s role as a company CEO, he provided guidance on World Dairy Expo operations and human resource management. While serving as president of the board of directors, Ripley oversaw World Dairy Expo’s construction of and relocation to their current office.

“The World Dairy Expo we experience and enjoy today wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of volunteers,” commented Ripley. While Ripley remains involved with the show today, he urged the next generation to get involved.

Admission and alteration

Betty and Tami Rotar began volunteering at World Dairy Expo in 1995 after being contacted by Stampfl. Betty joked, “Who can say no to Ruth?” The mother-and-daughter duo has been helping at the admission gate ever since. However, their experience owning a sewing store and embroidery business also led them to work with the World Dairy Expo staff on other projects.

For the past 10 years, the Rotars have embroidered the 14 Grand Champion sashes awarded during the cattle show. “It’s a fun challenge to design a sash that will fit with the theme of each year’s show,” said Tami. The duo has also used their talent and creativity to help with other special projects, including curtains, costumes for the Supreme Ceremony, and the cover that was placed on the Miss Madison cow statue before its unveiling at the start of last year’s show.

Betty recalled one sewing project during the 2010 World Dairy Expo. “We were creating costumes (that fit the medieval theme) for the Supreme Ceremony. There were a few last-minute fit alterations to complete ahead of the ceremony. I brought my sewing machine to the grounds, and we got it done in time!”

Betty and Tami agreed that they enjoy returning each year because of the camaraderie between the World Dairy Expo staff and volunteers. “Volunteers allow the staff to not worry about little things,” said Tami. “There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that happens, and it’s nice to see volunteers come back year after year and do their jobs to help put on a quality show.”

Establishing tradition

In 1983, the year she became a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sheila McGuirk, D.V.M., also began volunteering at World Dairy Expo. Since then, she’s collaborated with World Dairy Expo staff, breed superintendents, cattle exhibitors, and others to establish showring ethics and health check-in policies and procedures.

“It’s a terrific tribute to the quality of the dairy cattle show at World Dairy Expo. While these are issues that can be uncomfortable, we share a common vision of doing the best thing for the cattle. I’ve been impressed by our ability to stay at the forefront of these issues and get everyone on board,” said McGuirk.

In a 50-hour period, 2,400 cattle arrive at the World Dairy Expo grounds. McGuirk has been instrumental in developing the health check-in procedure that streamlined the process and kept biosecurity top of mind. To help execute the new process, McGuirk enlisted veterinary students. At last year’s Expo, she had 100 volunteers.

Before World Dairy Expo, students attend an introductory lecture. They learn how to write and inspect a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) and review current news and information surrounding biosecurity. Each student then signs up for two eight-hour shifts during World Dairy Expo check-in. When a trailer arrives at the grounds, two or three students will work together. They will review the CVI, utilize a wand to read the Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) in the animal’s ear, and visually inspect each animal for any abnormalities as they are unloaded at their assigned location.

Students completing the introductory course and two eight-hour shifts receive one elective credit. McGuirk views it as a symbiotic relationship between the students and the show. “It’s an exceptional learning opportunity for students (introducing them to the possibility of being a cattle veterinarian) and ensures a well-organized, efficient check-in process for the show,” she explained.

We’re a family

Marjorie Stieve recalls her first time working at World Dairy Expo as a student. It was 1991, and the show was celebrating its 25th anniversary. “One of the first tasks I was given during my internship was to carefully (and painstakingly) wrap the brass rails for the showring in silver to mark the milestone,” she recalled. After she graduated from college, Stieve rejoined World Dairy Expo as a full-time staff member. Over her 12-year tenure, she worked in several facets of the show, including the commercial exhibits, marketing, and media relations.

Volunteers were an important partner to help Stieve distribute World Dairy Expo contest results to media. “We didn’t have the same technology that’s available today, so a lot of the work happened outside of normal business hours,” Stieve explained. We’d receive the cattle show results around 1 or 2 a.m. and spend the rest of the night faxing 15 to 30 pages of results to our media contacts.”

Stieve, now employed at Vita Plus, has made the transition to a World Dairy Expo volunteer herself. She helps set up the Purple Cow booth and is a member of the commercial exhibitor committee. “The commercial exhibitor committee is a diverse group — it includes representatives from companies that participate in more than 50 shows annually and a couple of dairy farmers. The composition has allowed us to discuss new ideas and opportunities on how to make the trade show more welcoming and impactful,” she shared.

Having been both a staff member and volunteer, Stieve has a unique perspective. “It’s incredible to see the positive impact we have on each other’s lives. We’re a family who shares a love for the show, and we work together to make it a special event,” she said.

These five volunteers, and 123 others, have been recognized as a “Friend of World Dairy Expo.” World Dairy Expo established the award to recognize volunteers who provide, and have provided, many years of service and dedication assisting with the show. The award is presented at the December “Friends of Expo” reception and dinner.