The author was the 2021 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.
Unphased by the hustle and bustle of World Dairy Expo, three experienced volunteers are eagerly taking on new show superintendent positions this year. These leaders are no stranger to the event, and they credit the years of practice and guidance that have prepared them for this point. Jon Rasmussen, Jennifer Keuning, and Mike Marean will work alongside the other superintendents to make sure this year’s show returns with success after a year-long break.
Rasmussen helps oversee
While the Brillion, Wis., native grew up on a dairy farm and attended World Dairy Expo with his FFA chapter, he credits his true beginning with the event to his college years. “I always resort to my first start at Expo being in 1995 when I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” he recalled. During his time in the Badger Dairy Club, he was able to see each aspect of the event as he helped with milk house duties, night line service, garbage collection, and running the grilled cheese stand.
Following college, Rasmussen began checking in cattle for the show. Soon, the dairy technology specialist at Vita Plus was needed for a new project. He shared, “Expo started moving forward with new technology and I was always good at understanding that, so I helped with trainings.”
He could always be counted on to help with whatever was needed. “I assisted with a number of the shows in different capacities,” Rasmussen said. From there, it only made sense that he stepped into a leadership position as Jersey superintendent.
A few years later, Laura Herscheleb and Laurie Breuch asked him to take on additional responsibilities. “It was a lot of phone calls and a little bit of arm twisting,” he laughed thinking back to the conversations.
Now settling into the role, Rasmussen is excited about this year’s show. “We are going to try some new technology this year with stalling,” he said. “Stalling is a big jigsaw puzzle, and our old system of mapping the barns makes it hard to make changes on the fly.” This year, the superintendents are working with a virtual program that can organize exhibitors more efficiently.
While the new technology is a progressive step for World Dairy Expo, he is happy to get back to the roots of the celebration, especially with the last year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted, “I look forward to seeing everyone together again, and taking a break from normal life. That’s what shows do — they bring more enthusiasm to a daily routine.”
Keuning covers the Holsteins
Growing up on her family’s dairy farm in central Iowa, she found her interest for the dairy industry working with and showing their registered Holstein herd at local and state shows. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Central College and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. As a kid, she attended World Dairy Expo, but she became fully immersed while serving as an extension agent in Kewaunee County, Wis.
While in that position, Keuning met two influential dairy leaders, Terry Howard and Dave Selner, who encouraged her efforts with Expo. Selner is originally from Kewaunee County and Howard was a superintendent at the time. “It was my first county fair in Kewaunee County, and I was helping at the dairy show. Selner said ‘We need to get you helping at Expo,’” she chuckled.
She checked in cattle her first time volunteering, and for the last 20 years, she worked alongside Ken Elliot, the former Holstein superintendent. Keuning also served 12 years as the futurity superintendent. She said that she has been assisting Elliot during the duration of his position and is prepared for what she will enter into come September.
“After you go to Expo to help a couple times, I think people put dibs on you,” she said with a grin. After assisting at World Dairy Expo for so long and gaining real-world experience, Keuning believes she has the experience and skills to put on a smooth show. Her job as the senior project manager and company associate at GHD Services, a full-service engineering firm, has expanded her communications and leadership skills.
In February, she received a call from Bollig asking her to be the Holstein superintendent. “Of course, I said yes! I feel like I earned the job and have what it takes to do a good job,” she said.
Even though it is her first time as a breed superintendent, she is confident in the team of volunteers. “Certainly, no one steps into these roles alone,” Keuning said. “We have a good team of experienced superintendents. None of us are going to be thrown to the wolves.”
Marean leads Red and Whites
The Albany, Wis., resident grew up on a dairy and has been venturing to Expo since he was 10 years old. When pursuing his dairy science and agricultural journalism degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he volunteered with the Badger Dairy Club and competed on the dairy judging team. Since graduating, he has been coaching his county’s 4-H dairy judging team, which won the competition at Expo in 2018.
Marean said he was honored when asked to serve in this role. He stated, “I was asked by Dave Bollig. He had gotten to know me, and he thought I would be a good candidate for the Red and White Show with my background.”
Not only is he familiar with Expo, but Marean has skills that will benefit him in this role. He said, “Throughout my career, I have been in leadership positions, and I have done a lot of event planning and scheduling.” He spent 20 years as a Dane County Breakfast on the Farm coordinator and has been going to shows for many years.
“Something that helped me decide to be a superintendent is that I want to help keep Expo a premiere show, and this gives me the chance to give back and be a part of something great,” he said. Marean highly respects all the exhibitors, breeders, and attendees of World Dairy Expo. With a lost year, he looks forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people again.
He said, “The pandemic has caused everyone to be resilient. I learned to never take anything for granted.” Now that the international show is back, he and the rest of the superintendents are determined more than ever to make it a success.
These ambitious leaders are working tirelessly to make the World Dairy Expo comeback one for the books. From September 28 through October 2, these folks will be working harder than ever before, but be sure to congratulate them on their new position and thank them for their dedication. Altogether, these volunteers make the show go!