Indiana loves its Indy 500 Milkmen and this week they’re meeting the media so race fans can meet them. Dairy farmer Ken Hoeing of Rushville is head milkman this year and he is joined by Alan Wright from south of Muncie.
“It was a terrific season last year. I got to do it with Duane Hill and we got to meet a lot of people and do a lot of interesting things. It was the first race I had ever attended. I had been to qualifications there, but the tradition of handling the milk in the winner’s circle and meeting all the different people down there was really interesting.”
Wright is not only the rookie milkman but he is a rookie race attendee.
“I’ve never been to the race before and I’m looking forward to it,” he told HAT.
The Indy 500 is steeped in tradition, and at the top of the list is when the milk is delivered to the winning driver.
“It’s quite humbling to represent all the dairy farmers in Indiana and America with the milk tradition, a long standing tradition since back in 1933,” Hoeing said. “It actually started with the drink of buttermilk with Louis Meyer and continued on all these years and we get to be part of the tradition.”
The tradition has continued for almost 80 races total and 59 consecutive years. The bottle itself becomes a treasured keepsake for the drivers and they also receive a $10,000 cash prize after downing the milk, or drowning in it as often happens.
In his first year at the 500 Wright has been given an important task by Hoeing.
“He said don’t set the cooler with the milk down. Hang onto it. I think he’s going to let me be in charge of that and I look forward to hopefully not losing the milk and keep a secure handle on that cooler.”
Hoeing and Wright grow corn and soybeans in addition to their dairy operation and they sit on the board of American Dairy Association Indiana, sponsor of the victory circle milk and the Fastest Rookie luncheon Tuesday at IMS.