And the winner is: MILK!

By Sherry Bunting

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s a roar not soon forgotten when the field of 33 drivers rounds the curve to the paddock straightaway and the pace car exits the track. The thrill of the Indianapolis 500 is unmatched in motorsports, and the refreshing, replenishing, refueling and revered beverage associated with this great race is MILK — Real Dairy Milk!

Wait for it… The patriotic blend of freedom and speed after the recognition of our military, the moment of silence and playing of Taps for fallen heroes, the Blue Angels flyover, the singing of America the Beautiful and the National Anthem, and Back Home in Indiana, the anticipated “Drivers Start Your Engines”, the breaking free of the pace cars as the field of Indy cars passes the paddock with Old Glory in tow!

For 103 years, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, a patriotic display, Blue Angels fly-over, recognition of our military and moment of silence for our fallen precede the 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

And for 83 years, the legendary race is complete with the ice cold Drink of Milk in Victory Circle — deemed the “coolest trophy in sports”, awarded for the “greatest spectacle in racing,” also known as the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

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2012 Milkman Dave Forgey (left) of River-View Dairy Farm, Logansport and his rookie Duane Hill of MayHill Farm, Fountain City.

Dave Forgey of Logansport was an Indy500 spectator for years before having the chance to be the ‘Milkman.’ As a dairy farmer he was enthusiastic when the Indiana milk promotion board began choosing dairy farmers, instead of executives, to be the ones to give the famed bottle of milk to the winning driver each year. After serving as the ‘rookie’ in 2011, he was lead Milkman in 2012.

“As dairy farmers, we bring a personal touch to the award, that brings it to the common level of the fans. At the end of the race, the Milk is always first,” said Forgey with a broad grin standing in front of the IMS Pagoda race day morning talking to fans in 2012.

The job of the Indy500 Milkmen (or women) begins long before Sunday, and continues throughout the year in venues such as Rotary Club presentations and small town parades, as well as other competitive events that capitalize on the Winners Drink Milk slogan of American Dairy Association Indiana.

By Sunday, the Milkmen are focused on keeping the Milk iced for Victory Lane and promoting milk and dairy farming to race-day fans. They ask all the drivers to choose between Whole, 2% and fat-free and have those selections ready since they don’t know who the winner will be. Whole milk has been topping the choices 2 to 1 over the past few years, and two top drivers, Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe in 2019 said they would return to the buttermilk choice of 3x winner Louis Meyer in 1936, if it were an option!

In short, the Indy500 milkmen are charged with protecting the future of this unique sports award ruled tops for its “cool factor” according to Sports Illustrated writer Pete McEntegart, who in his si.com column ranked milk #1 among the Sports World’s top-10 unique trophies.

And in a recent interview, champions rate the Milk as the top tradition of this famed race that is certainly steeped in many traditions.

“It is certainly a tradition that everyone respects. What else can we do that is this national and international in scope?” Forgey observes. He said he came home to find an email from a friend in New Zealand who saw the whole thing on television.

“The fans are interested. They want to talk about our dairy farms,” says Forgey. When fans realized he was giving the bottle of mlk, they wanted to know how he qualified for the job. When Forgey explained that he and his rookie are Indiana dairy farmers, the fans were eager to know more. Of course, they also want to see the milk. Standing by the milkmen in front of the IMS Pagoda on race day morning, enthusiasm for “the milk” is evident. Fans paused to take pictures, and ask questions.

“There is always a lot of excitement for the milk among the racing fans,” says Forgey. “They know the tradition. They know about the milk. And when we can help them connect it back to the farmer, that generates interest.”

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Thanks to Louis Meyer, 3-time winner who started the Winning Drink of Milk!

Initiated 83 years ago when the first three-time winner, Louis Meyer, asked for buttermilk to quench his thirst after the grueling 500-mile race, the Drink of Milk tradition has endured. Today, scientific evidence shows Louis Meyer knew what he was doing back in 1936, when he turned after that grueling race to the unique, natural and un-matched combination of hydrating re-fuel found in Real Dairy Milk with it’s healthy maitrix of fat, protein, carbohydrate, a dozen essential nutrients and refreshment. In fact, in those days, buttermilk was the name given to full-fat milk with extra heavy cream! Today’s drivers tend to choose Whole Milk (standardized at 3.25% fat) more than the reduced fat (2%) or fat-free options.

ADA Indiana coordinates the Indy500 Drink of Milk promotion today, and 45 years ago they added to the heritage by sponsoring the “Fastest Rookie” award on the Tuesday before the big race. The coveted award recognizes the first-year driver who achieves the fastest four-lap average speed from among fellow rookie competitors during time trials.

“The rookies are very interested in the milk and getting their pictures taken with the milk,” says Forgey.

Fast forward to 2016 with the 100th running of the Indy500 and what a celebration it was! Nearly half a million people attended in person. To put this into perspective, the largest-ever attendance of the NFL Superbowl was just over 100,000 people. The 100th running of the Indy500 in 2016 clocked in at 350,000 in the gates and another estimated 100,000 outside the gates just wanting to “be there.”

Prairie Farms, American Dairy Association Indiana and the IMS together gave commemorative, specially-packaged bottles of milk to fans for a winning milk toast and they were available in stores throughout the region.

After 500 miles, 200 laps, 54 lead changes and 13 different leaders, the winning of the 100th Indy500 came down to a fuel strategy that put Alexander Rossi — the 9th rookie ever, and the first since 2001 — into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the sweet taste of victory — the 80th traditional ice cold drink of milk, delivered in 2016 by Milkwoman Janet Dague, a dairy farmer from Kewana, Indiana and rookie Joe Kelsay of Kelsay Farms, Whiteland.

“I was so excited to see our rookie win the 500,” said Dague, an avid race fan and dairy farmer after delivering the Drink of Milk to Rossi in Victory Circle. “I was jumping up and down, cheering when he crossed the finish line. I even said to Joe ‘I told you I wanted our rookie to win!’

By “our rookie,” Dague was referring to Rossi earning the 42nd Fastest Rookie award given annually by the ADA-Indiana at a special dairy-and-racing-focused luncheon on the Tuesday before the race. There, Rossi was honored as the qualifying rookie with the fastest 4-lap average speed on qualification day, at an average 228 mph.

Dague described Rossi as “so gracious about winning. I think because of the rookie luncheon that just took place, he understood how important this was for the ADA-Indiana and every other dairy farmer around the world,” she explained. “In every picture, he made sure to take a drink of the milk and even made sure our logo was facing front and center. We couldn’t ask for a better spokesperson.”

The whole crew was celebrating that win with their milk, along with race fans given commemorative bottles on the 100th anniversary. Owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta were toasting each other, drinking their milk. Andretti, in particular, was happy to taste the elusive beverage right from driver Rossi’s official bottle while Rossi did his victory interview with ESPN, and their chief mechanic was next for the taste of victory!

Rookie Milkman Kelsay was excited to be there for the first time with the Drink of Milk in that 100th year of the Indy500.

“To have the spotlight shine on the nutrition of milk in this way is just awesome,” he said during the parade honoring military and the heritage of the race on the day before. “It is an honor to represent fellow dairy farmers who are back home milking and feeding and listening to the race on the radio. It has been a humbling experience so far. It seems as important to the fans as it is to dairy farmers. Even one of the police officers mentioned what an honor it was to meet us, saying he would be sure to keep me safe if something happens.

“We just thank Louis Meyer for starting this trend over 80 years ago that we can highlight the healthy choice of milk and deliver that message to a global audience here at the Indy500,” Kelsay adds.

“What better way could we as dairy farmers promote our product than to be out in the forefront of this event, which is so significant worldwide?” says Forgey, who appreciated the honor of spending 2011 and 2012 representing the dairy farmers in Indiana and across the U.S., who work hard to produce a healthy product.

After all, #WinnersDrinkMilk because #RealMilkAlwaysWins #TasteTheVictory

2018 winner: Milk!
Hubs and I at the 100th Indy500 in 2016 in the paddock straightaway. He has followed the race his entire life. I was drawn in when we met in 1978 and was happy we could cover the 100th Anniversary run for Farmshine as farm media in 2016!

The Indy-500 milkmen deliver ‘coolest trophy in sports’

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On Memorial Day weekend a year ago, I had the honor and privilege of being one of three agriculture journalists invited to cover the Indy-500 and the milkmen who present the famed glass of milk to the winner. This International motorsports tradition is also an Indiana dairy farm tradition and underpins events for dairy promotion all year. Below is the story I wrote and some of the centerfold photos from last year’s event as we look forward to tomorrow’s run!Indy-spread

By Sherry Bunting, reprinted from Farmshine, June 1, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.–It’s a roar not soon forgotten when the field of 33 drivers rounds the curve to the paddock straightaway and the pace car exits the track. The thrill of the Indy500 is unmatched in motorsports, and the refreshing, replenishing, revered beverage associated with this great race is MILK.

Each year the legend is complete with the winner’s drink of ice cold milk. Last Sunday’s 96th running of the famous 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) was no exception. Milk took center stage for the 76th time as the “coolest trophy in sports” awarded for the “greatest spectacle in racing,” also known as the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

With the two Target Chip Ganassi Team cars topping the field and just 10 of the 200 laps remaining in a race that had thrilled spectators with a record number of lead changes, few cautions, no rain delays, a fast-paced 186-mph average speed, and a record high temperature of 93 degrees in the stands (125 on the track), the announcer energized fans for the finale by stating: “I just saw the American Dairy Association folks with the ice cold milk!”

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Dave Forgey of River-View Dairy Farm, Logansport, has been an Indy500 spectator for years, especially since the Milk Promotion Services board began choosing dairy farmers to give the famed bottle of milk to the winning driver each year. After serving as last year’s rookie, Forgey was lead milkman this year. He was assisted by 2012 rookie Duane Hill of MayHill Holsteins, Fountain City.

“As dairy farmers, we bring a personal touch to the award, that brings it to the common level of the fans. At the end of the race, the milk is always first,” said Forgey with a broad grin.

The job of the Indy500 milkmen began long before Sunday, and will continue in venues such as Rotary Club presentations and small town parades, as well as other competitive events that capitalize on the Winners Drink Milk slogan of the Milk Promotion Services of Indiana, Inc. (MPSI).

Forgey described the past month as a whirlwind of preparation, promotion, and parades, along with media interviews and milk toasts at events like the Rookie Drivers Luncheon last Tuesday.

By Sunday, the milkmen were focusing on keeping the milk iced for Victory Circle and promoting milk and dairy farming to race-day fans.

In short, the Indy500 milkmen are charged with protecting the future of this unique sports award ruled tops for its “cool factor” according to Sports Illustrated writer Pete McEntegart, who in his 2005 si.com column ranked milk #1 among the Sports World’s top-10 unique trophies.

“It is certainly a tradition that everyone respects. What else can we do that is this national and international in scope?” Forgey observed. He said he came home to find an email from a friend in New Zealand who saw the whole thing on television.

In addition to pre-race television and radio broadcasts, Forgey and Hill figure they personally greeted and talked with hundreds of fans Sunday morning, not to mention the sheer visual impact of milk in the Victory Circle celebration to several hundred thousand spectators, millions of television viewers, and countless more via the Internet.

“The fans are interested. They wanted to talk about our dairy farms,” said Forgey. When fans realized he was giving the bottle of mlk, they wanted to know how he qualified for the job. When Forgey explained that he and Hill are Indiana dairy farmers, the fans were eager to know more. Of course, they also wanted to see the milk.
Standing by the milkmen in front of the IMS Pagoda Sunday morning, enthusiasm for “the milk” was evident. Fans paused to take pictures, and ask questions.

“There was a lot of excitement for this within the racing fans,” said Forgey. “They know the tradition. They know about the milk. And when we can help them connect it back to the farmer, that generates interest.”

Initiated 76 years ago when the first three-time winner, Louis Meyer, asked for buttermilk to quench his thirst after the grueling 500-mile race, the bottle of milk tradition has endured and evolved. The American Dairy Association of Indiana (ADA) coordinates the promotion, and 38 years ago added to the Indy500 heritage by sponsoring the “Fastest Rookie of the Year” award. The coveted award recognizes the first-year driver who achieves the fastest four-lap average speed from among fellow rookie competitors during time trials.
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“The rookies are very interested in the milk and getting their pictures taken with the milk,” said Forgey. He explained that professional videos of the two farms (River-view and MayHill) were created and shared at the Rookie Luncheon. The videos highlighted the ADA “Fastest Rookie” award and promoted the dairy industry with snapshot histories of the farms of the 2012 milkmen.

“It has been very exciting to do this,” said Forgey about his role as Indy500 milkman, where he set a goal to broaden awareness of the event within the dairy industry.

“What better way could we as dairy farmers promote our product than to be out in the forefront of this event, which is so significant worldwide?” said Forgey, who has “appreciated the honor of spending these past two years representing the 1200 dairy farmers in Indiana and 50,000 in the nation that work hard to produce a healthy product.

The bottle of milk tradition and Fastest Rookie award are two Indy500 programs supported annually by the ADA and its Hoosier dairy farm families. Forgey and Hill, both members of the MPSI board, took on the responsibility for continuing one of Indianapolis’ most treasured traditions this year.

“We appreciate the support of this tradition by the Hulman-George Family and recognize the important place it holds in the hearts of everyone who loves the Indianapolis 500,” said Forgey. “This is a tradition the dairy farmers of Indiana uphold each year, and it’s not just for Indiana. People associate the famous 500-mile race with the bottle of milk.”

Today, scientific evidence shows Louis Meyer knew what he was doing back in 1933, when he turned to milk to refuel after a grueling 500-miles.

Dario Franchitti hit the three-win mark Sunday, and continued the Winners Drink Milk tradition.
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Part of that ongoing tradition is the list of “mini marathons” and other competitive events in which the Winners Drink Milk slogan is used and chocolate milk is provided as the most refreshing beverage to replenish after exercise. For the Indycar drivers, however, the choice remains traditional. The milkmen keep whole white milk, 2% or nonfat chillin’ for them in Victory Circle.
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Driving for the Target Chip Ganassi Team, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon swept the top two spots in the 96th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27. Legends were celebrated from 101 years of racing against a backdrop of Memorial Day honors for U.S. troops, including a tribute to last year’s Indy500 champion Dan Weldon, who was later involved in a fatal crash during the final 2011 Indycar race last October. Franchitti, Dixon and third place driver Tony Kanaan were all close friends of Weldon. Sporting his trademark white sunglasses, they crossed the finish line nearly three-abreast as the Indy500 ended its 200th 2.5-mile lap under the yellow caution flag, with the winner determined in the 199th lap.

“Winners Drink Milk” is the slogan imprinted on the bottle of milk awarded to the winning driver at the Indy500 each year. The slogan and bottle are used by the American Dairy Association of Indiana as shown in the milk float during the Festival of Indy parade Saturday.

Franchitti celebrated his third Indy500 win Sunday with the bottle of milk tradition started in the 1930s by Indy’s first three-time winner Louis Meyer (above right). After Meyer’s second victory in the grueling 500-mile race, he requested buttermilk to quench his thirst.

Pictured in the white and black cow-cap is 2012 Indy500 milkman Dave Forgey. The Logansport, Indiana dairyman was selected by his peers to deliver the legendary bottle of milk to the winning driver in Victory Circle this year. The “Winners Drink Milk” campaign is funded by Indiana dairy farmers through the ADA.

In traditional fashion, Franchitti celebrated his victory with the milk drink (and dunk) to the cheers of the crowd and throngs of photographers as well as national and international media.

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The “Winners Drink Milk” float was a main attraction at the Festival of Indy parade Saturday in downtown Indianapolis.
“Milkmen” Dave Forgey of Logansport (left) and Duane Hill of Fountain City kept a bottle each of whole, 2% and nonfat white milk chilled (with backup of course) for Victory Circle.
Indy 500 legends are commemorated on milk bottles lining shelves at the gift shops.
All 33 drivers were surveyed for their preferences before the race, and this race fan checked the sheet to see what his favorite driver prefers (whole, 2% or nonfat).
For racing fans like these folks from Wisconsin-the bottle of milk is a revered tradition, and the Indiana farmers who served as milkmen were treated as protectors of the celebrity-MILK-as they greeted Indy500 fans on race-day in front of the Pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.