Minnesota loves its royalty, and according to State Fair lore, none melts hearts quite like the state’s dairy princess, crowned from among a court of 12 county dairy royals each year at the State Fair. This year’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way is Kyla Mauk, 19, of Howard Lake, representing Wright County.

Wednesday night’s coronation, at 9:30 in the State Fair Bandshell, follows a roughly 60-year tradition of naming the princess on the night before the fair’s opening day.

Princess Kay serves as the official goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s 3,500 dairy farmers. Candidates must have ties to dairy farming and will appear as spokeswomen and educators at public appearances around the state.

On each of the 12 days of the fair, Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her court will have their likenesses carved into 90-pound blocks of butter. The carving takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Dairy Building, where the princess and the butter sculptor interact with the audience from a rotating cooler kept at a crisp 40 degrees.

The current reigning Princess Kay is Jeni Haler of Norwood Young America, representing Carver County, who relinquished her crown to Mauk tonight.

The contest is sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Association.