Legendary Volunteerism

September 6, 2009 07:00 PM

Brenda Lee Turner of Semex is one of nearly 400 people who contribute to World Dairy Expo's success. Turner volunteers her voice, announcing class results three days each year during Expo. Photo: Vivid Media
As a young man, Al Schultz showed cattle and participated in the judging competitions at World Dairy Expo. Now he—along with dozens of employees of the company he manages—volunteers time and services to help make Expo a memorable event for everyone who attends.

"This is our largest trade show, and it's our biggest exposure to nearly 70,000 dairy enthusiasts who are right here in our backyard,” says Schultz, who is now president of Madison-based Vita Plus Corporation.

"Our employees feel it's worthwhile to give something back to both the dairy industry and Expo by donating their time, their expertise and their talents.”

The crew from Vita Plus makes up a portion of the volunteer army that helps make Expo successful every year.

"Without the help of our volunteers, Expo wouldn't be the great event that it is,” says Mark Clarke, Expo's general manager. "In fact, it would not be possible to have this event if it were not for their help.”

During the show, almost 400 volunteers help run the cattle shows, commercial exhibits, youth contests, school tours, International Lounge and the Purple Cow gift shop, contributing thousands of hours of valuable labor.

"They come from all corners of the U.S. and Canada and represent a wide range of ages,” notes Ruth Stampfl, Expo administrative services manager and volunteer coordinator. "Many of our volunteers are second- or third-generation, following in the footsteps of parents, grandparents, even aunts and uncles.”

Volunteers spend anywhere from half a day to a full 10 days working before, during and after the show. Some are retired, others take vacation days and many are "loaned” by their dairy-related companies.

"It's a fairly small industry when you think about it, but it's really important for us all to pull together to make the effort work,” says Janet Keller of Accelerated Genetics, who conducts show ring interviews as an Expo volunteer. "Some of our staff volunteer
with the Post-Secondary Contest, and some lead the school-children on tours of the show. It's a reminder of why this is a great industry.”

It takes everyone pulling together to make an event of this size run smoothly.

"Obviously, Expo would have problems accomplishing what it does without the commitment of volunteers,” says Eric Olstad of Select Sires, who volunteers as the Jersey superintendent. "A lot of us grew up working with dairy cattle and we have molded it into our careers. It's just a natural draw to step up and be involved with Expo.

"To give your time to a 4-H or collegiate judging contest—to those kids who are the future of this business—or, in my case, to work with Jersey breeders from across North America, is very rewarding. It's great to see that happen here in Madison and then to see the positive result it has for dairy producers and businesses alike around the globe,” Olstad says.

Volunteers can be found all over the Expo grounds. And their work transcends borders as some assist international visitors and help make Expo a true world event.

"This is a huge international as well as domestic show for us, and it is by far the greatest dairy event in the world that we participate in,” Keller says. "There is always something new and exciting here, and we get to hear and share industry stories with others. Ultimately, volunteering is about helping to bring this industry together—and that's why it's so important to us.” WDE

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