(Reuters) - Janet Dague will be nervous watching the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday as she awaits her 15 minutes, or perhaps 15 seconds, of fame.
Her concern, however, will not be over what is unfolding on the track. Rather, she will worry that she does not drop the bottle of milk she will carry to victory lane for the winning driver to drink.
Dague is this year’s Indy 500 Milk Woman, and will continue a tradition that dates back to 1936, when winning driver Louis Meyer, as legend has it, requested a bottle of buttermilk to quench his thirst.
In an era before the term “product placement” was part of the public lexicon, the milk industry reportedly realized what priceless publicity it had received, and persuaded organizers into making it an annual ritual.
The tradition continues to this day -- with 1993 being a notable exception -- an unusual anomaly in a sport where champagne is more often the beverage of choice for the winner.
Which brings us back to Dague, who will take her job as seriously as any of the drivers, without quite the danger.
Dague is not so much worried about dropping the milk on her own, but rather is concerned about the possibility of being bumped in the crowded confines of victory lane.
“I am absolutely terrified I am going to get shoved,” the 4 foot 11 inch (1.5m) dairy farmer told Reuters, adding that she was planning to use an adhesive product to help minimize the chances of a spill.
Hague, with her husband and three children, have a 1500-acre farm near Kewanna, about 100 miles (161 kms) north of Indianapolis, where they keep about 200 dairy cows.
It is a quiet place, with an average of about 15 cars passing their house daily, she says, a far cry from the ear-splitting noise of the Indy 500.
Dague will spend Saturday night in a hotel, before receiving a police escort with her milk to the track on race day.
“We had a new cooler made,” said Dague, who will keep the milk on ice until it’s time to hand it to the victorious driver.
The winner won’t be the only one swigging a celebratory bottle of milk this year as 100,000 spectators will be given a bottle of milk for what is being billed as the world’s largest “milk toast.”
Dague last year served as the “understudy” when she handed a bottle of milk to the winning owner and also the chief mechanic.
So now that she is in the chief job, what else worries Dague, apart from a repeat of 1993 when Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, owner of Brazilian orange grove, eschewed the milk in favor of orange juice
“I have to make sure the winner pulls the cap off,” she said, explaining that the quart bottle will be a pull top.
“Some years ago the winner tried to twist it.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue