Only seventeen people in the world are eligible to be selected as the dairy farmer who gets to hand over the ice cold bottle of milk to the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500. The position lasts two years. The first year (the “rookie” year), the selected individual gives the milk to the Chief Mechanic and Team Owner. The second year, the selected individual becomes the “mentor milk person” and actually gets to hand over the bottle of milk to the Winning Driver.
Last year was my rookie year, and it was an amazing experience. A week before the race, Sam Schwoeppe, who was my mentor milk woman, and I spent a day doing media interviews on TV and radio. The interviews were arranged by the milk promotion staff, who did a great job. My first TV interview was on the Fox station where Sam and I were interviewed on LIVE television. Even though I had first time jitters, the people at the TV station were very courteous and made my first interview very enjoyable.
One of the next stops was a radio interview that was conducted at a home being built by Habitat for Humanity. We passed out milk to the workers and radio announcers who were thankful for the cold milk since they had been working all day. While handing out milk, there were three workers on the roof who didn’t think I could throw the milk that high. I told them I could throw it if they could catch it. Needless to say, they ended up with ice cold milk to enjoy.
Every year there is an Indy 500 parade held on Saturday, the day before the race. The parade was one of my most exciting experiences even though it was an extremely hot day in May. Once we arrived at the float, we discovered we were right behind Miss America’s float, which was great! Also in the parade were Indy 500 queen candidates and racecar drivers, which really made the parade an exciting event. Sam and I rode on opposite sides of the float, right up front taking turns holding up the bottle of milk and waving. It was amazing how the crowd responded when I held up the bottle of milk. The higher I held it up, the louder the cheers. It was unbelievable how the enthusiasm from the people in the parade and from the spectators contributed to the excitement.
On the day of the big race, we had a police escort waiting for us to start the day. While waiting for the escort, we handed out ‘Winners Drink Milk’ pins. Once the escort arrived and took us to the track, we parked and got the cooler containing the milk that would be given to the winning driver. As we were carrying the cooler, we were stopped by people who asked if we were the ‘milk people.’ We finally made it to our special suite reserved for us where we could store the bottle of milk.
Our job had only started that day because we had more interviews lined up! After the media interviews were completed, we had the opportunity to go down and view the cars before the race. I enjoyed looking at the cars and the great pre-race show. We stopped at the David Letterman car, and a photographer took a picture of us with the car.
Once the race began, we went back to the suite to “guard” the milk cooler and watch the race. Before the race ended, the 500 officials came up to get us to take us to our places where we would present the bottle of milk to the winner. It was very close quarters and became even tighter once they pushed the winning car in the winner’s circle. I remember pulling my toes back so they wouldn’t get ran over! The officials cautioned us about touching the car; basically they said not to touch it, as the car was so hot.
Sam gave the bottle of milk to the winner, and I handed a bottle of milk to the owner and chief mechanic. Looking back, a special memory I have is of the winner’s father standing beside me and trying to introduce himself and his family. I paid attention more to him than watching the cameras in the area.
This year, I am the “mentor milk man,” and I will be training the new rookie, Richard Thomas. I’m looking forward to another great experience.
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