MERIDIAN, Idaho —
Yes, Idaho is known for potatoes, but the Gem State is also the third largest-producing dairy state in the county, just behind California and Wisconsin.
However, as of 2020, there are only 437 dairy farms across the state, most of which are in the Magic Valley region. But back in the day, Meridian was actually the dairy center of Idaho.
This weekend, thousands will take over downtown Meridian as part of the Meridian Dairy Days.
An event that started out as a celebration in 1929, and quickly morphed into an annual gathering of not only dairy farmers, but the Meridian community.
"It's probably going to be strange for people who just moved here, and ‘why do we have dairy days? I can't find a dairy anywhere,’" said Hans Brujin, the president of Meridian Dairy Days.
But that wasn’t the case 100 years ago. In fact, it was nearly 93 years ago to this day that Meridian Creamery opened amidst growing concerns of a Great Depression.
"At one time, this was the dairy capital of Idaho. We had the creamery here right in Meridian where city hall is now and there were dairies every square mile, probably had four dairies,” Brujin said.
At one point, more than three thousand farmers sent their milk to the Meridian Creamery. In 1948, the creamery incorporated a dairy show to its yearly celebrations, and one year later, the celebrations moved to the dairy grounds, now known as the Meridian Speedway.
"You know, people brought their animals, their cows, to show their neighbors how good their cows were," Brujin said.
Today, the dairy show is reserved just for students in FFA and 4H to show off their dairy cattle and dairy goats. The show is still held in the infield of the Meridian Speedway.
But where do they keep the cattle?
"Probably a lot of people don't know that, but the North grandstand, as they call it, is the dairy barn,” Brujin said. “That's where they used to house, I think up to 200 head of dairy cows for the show.”
All the proceeds from the Dairy Days stock show go towards providing scholarships to the FFA and 4H students. This Spring, they were able to give away ten-thousand dollars.
"We still have to eat, and even though there's still not that much farmland left here, we hope that these youth will come back and help out the agriculture in Idaho," Brujin said.
Though the dairy show has remained a constant over the last few decades, Brujin said they continue to add more attractions over the years, things like live music, a carnival, pageants, and a parade. Brujin even said the dairy days parade has become a victim of its own success, every year it keeps growing.
This year they are expecting nearly 100 floats to parade downtown, followed by a fireworks show.
The creamery, by the way, closed around 1970, when the milk was shipped to Caldwell for processing. In 2008, the Meridian City Hall was built in its place.
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