Whether it’s a Supreme Champion Cow or a Purple Cow Gift Shop souvenir, we all have our World Dairy Expo favorites.

The showring themes are no exception. Breeds in Bloom, the 2004 showring theme that featured a white farmhouse, white picket fence, and white cows grazing on a green pasture of colored shavings, topped the list of 28 showring themes that have set the stage for Expo each year since 1988.

That was according to our poll of longtime World Dairy Expo attendees.

Earlier this summer, we mailed 50 ballots to people from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, who saw every World Dairy Expo showring theme. To help refresh their collective memory, we created a video with images of every theme that each ballot-holding judge could watch and then cast their votes. On each ballot, judges ranked their top five choices, with first place being worth five points; second worth four; and so on. In all, we received 40 of the 50 ballots back.

While Breeds in Bloom and the Greek theme were the handy first and second-place winners, there was a close-knit group that also created a lasting impression, placing third to sixth.

Even though the 1993 Greek theme appeared 23 years ago, it still holds a fond place in people’s hearts by placing second in our expert balloting. The theme featured cathedral pillars, classic Greek architecture, period-style artwork, and busts of dignitaries, all set on aqua or blue colored shavings.

In third was the classic Swiss Chalet that helped bring to life the theme of Brown Swiss 2000. Set on green shavings, that showring helped welcome the world gathering of Brown Swiss breeders held that year.
Appearing in 1992, the Harvest Moon showring still holds a special place in people’s memories. It featured an iconic red barn, windmill, pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, and fall foliage all set on green shavings. A large harvest moon draped the black curtains in the backdrop. This was World Dairy Expo’s most intensive theme, taking 1,800 hours to construct.

Two other themes followed in fifth and sixth, only separated by three points on the ballots.

In fifth was the 1998 Statue of Liberty decorations. That year a showring-wide American flag; red, white, and blue decor reflective of the U.S.A.; and similar marked fire crackers followed the theme of “Where the dairy industry meets.” The showring featured blue shavings.
Rounding out the top six was the 2008 showring theme “Building Bridges — Making Connections.” A covered red bridge and grist mill drew eyes to the far end of the showring. It sat on grass sod with trees sprinkled throughout the display. The colored shavings were blue that year.

While those were memorable showring themes, we can’t help but think that the colored shavings helped bring each theme to life. All those in the top six . . . there were only 28 showring themes . . . featured green or blue colored shavings. Other colors such as gold, purple, red, orange, and gray have also been used over the years. However, some may have lacked the pop to standout in people’s minds.

Started in 1988

The showring themes started in 1988. That is when a bright-eyed, 27-year-old Tom McKittrick took over the reins as general manager. The creative McKittrick guided the showring art for the next 19 years. All but one of the top six on the ballot were of his creation.

The famous colored shavings debuted a few years before the showring themes, in 1984 to be exact.

So what is your all-time favorite? You can join in the balloting by viewing images from each year. After watching the video below, follow the reader poll to let us know your thoughts on the topic.