One of the must-see stops at the Missouri State Fair each year is the butter cow in the Gerken Dairy Center, and this year’s creation is no different.
“Bessie and the Bee” is an “udderly” adorable likeness of a dairy cow, and while Fair visitors come to view Bessie, they smile just as widely when they take time to enjoy a cool treat served at the Gerken Dairy Center.
With 17 varieties of hand-scooped ice cream and more than a dozen flavors of soft-serve ice cream there is something for everyone to enjoy, according to Stacy Dohle, senior communications director for the Midwest Dairy Association.
“We’re just a cool place where people can come and cool off and enjoy some great food made from dairy products,” Dohle said. “Dairy foods are so diverse and we offer a large variety of really great products for people to enjoy.
“One of the things we really try to do is get consumers the right information about the dairy industry and our products and then we allow them to make the decision on what they want to consume,” she added. “All of us take a great deal of pride in what we do because we care about our products and our consumers.”
Dairy products, her customers and staff are important to Dohle.
“I manage the staff and I really like being around the customers as well; I like to talk to them,” Dohle said. “But I know I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for the incredible people I have who work here.
“Many of my 20 employees are teachers or college students who come back year after year to work here,” she added. “We really focus and stress being polite and kind to everyone when they come in because we are representative of Missouri’s dairy farmers and we don’t want to disappoint them.”
Saturday was a record day for the Dairy Center, according to Dohle, with more than 4,000 customers coming through the door.
“We timed our customers on Saturday and from outside to the counter the average wait time was five minutes,” Dohle said. “I know the lines may look really long but they’re really not.”
Dohle, who has been with the Midwest Dairy Association for 16 years, has been working at the Fair for the last 14 years.
“On average we go through 900 three-gallon tubs of ice cream each year in our hard-serve flavors and 1,000 gallons of soft-serve mix,” Dohle said. “Our most popular flavor is vanilla and chocolate chip cookie dough is our most popular hand-dipped variety.
“We always try to work in a new variety or flavor if they have one available,” she added. “This year we have ‘Elvis’s Favorite’ which is banana ice cream with a peanut butter ribbon throughout.”
The shop features two sugar-free varieties — vanilla and butter pecan — and offers grilled cheese sandwiches, ham-and-cheese sandwiches and another new product this year, cheese curds.
“We started to offer something else new this year, Edgewood Creamy Cheese Curds,” Dohle said. “A cheese curd is the first stage of the cheese when you separate the curds from the whey.
“We offer two varieties, cheddar and jalapeno, and they seem to be going over well,” she added. “They are squeaky when you eat them and are very popular in the North, but we wanted our customers to have the opportunity to try something new.”
Dohle said watching her staff serve the customers was a highlight of her work.
“I love seeing the families and the little ones,” Dohle said. “It’s a great place to come and sit and visit with your family and friends.
“Don’t be scared by the lines because I promise we’ll get them through,” she added with a smile. “Providing a good experience for our customers is what we’re all about.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.