NEW PALESTINE — Growing up in Indiana, local dairy farmer Kerry Estes was like most folks who had always been fans of the Indianapolis 500 race. While he never attended until 2021, Estes had always listened on the radio after church and then would watch a replay of the race the night of the big event.
Nowadays, Estes is hanging out at the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway nearly as much as the drivers after he was named an official spokesperson for the American Dairy Association of Indiana.
Estes will present the famed bottle of milk to the winning race car owner and crew chief this year, and then to the winning Indianapolis 500 driver next year as part of a two-year deal with race officials through the American Dairy Association of Indiana.
“Last year was the first year I ever got to go to the race, and I had pit passes and everything,” Estes said. “It was beyond a dream.”
The opportunity to be the “milk man” for the Indianapolis 500 actually started a few years ago when Estes was asked by officials with the American Dairy Association of Indiana to take part in a Fuel Up To Play 60 ad with the Indianapolis Colts. The NFL had teamed up with the American Dairy Association of Indiana to help build healthier and stronger school communities.
Estes and his wife, Christiana, along with their four children, own and operate a family dairy production farm just outside of New Palestine. Estes, who is also the freshman football coach at New Palestine High School, thought it was a great idea and fun opportunity to be part of the Fuel Up To Play 60, so he agreed to take part.
“I thought all of that was incredibly amazing,” Estes said. “I never dreamed I’d be asked to do anything like that and more.”
The work through the American Dairy Association of Indiana opened another door for Estes, who is now working with officials with the Indianapolis 500 to hand off the milk bottle to the winning team.
“It’s a two-year deal, and I’m in year one, so I’m considered the rookie,” Estes said with a laugh.
The public relations gig means Estes has to do several media appearances, local and nationwide, representing the American Dairy Association of Indiana, including heading up north where the supplier of the milk for the Indianapolis 500 is located.
“On race day, I’ll do local and national radio and television with the media every 30 minutes starting in the early morning until race time,” Estes said.
While Estes won’t be bringing his farm’s milk to the race, he’ll hand over the milk as the official spokesperson for the American Dairy Association of Indiana who supplies the milk while following strict board of health guidelines.
“My farm is a milk production farm, not a processing milk farm, so we don’t know whose farm will actually be providing the milk for the race,” Estes said. “We just know it’s from an Indiana dairy farm, and that’s the way officials want it.”
Celebrating an Indy 500 win with milk dates back to 1933 when Louis Meyer drank a glass of buttermilk after winning his second Indy 500. Meyer’s mother had always told him the best thing to drink on a hot day was buttermilk.
The American Dairy Association of Indiana is in charge of delivering the bottle of milk to the winner. Before every Indy 500, it polls the drivers to see what their preferred celebratory milk choice will be.
Estes, being the “milk man rookie” for the American Dairy Association of Indiana will also be part of the annual rookie driver luncheon where a video feature on his dairy production farm, which has been in business for nearly 20 years, will be presented.
“I’ll then do a milk toast to the fastest rookie at the luncheon,” Estes said. “That’s kind of a tradition.”
He’ll also ride in the Indianapolis 500 Parade and be on a float where his kids might get to see him do a “boogie dance,” Estes said. He, however, is looking forward to the end of the Indianapolis 500 race when he gets to hand over a milk bottle to the winning chief mechanic and team owner.
“This whole thing is really kind of cool,” Estes said.
For Estes, the whole role of being a public relations person for the American Dairy Association of Indiana has been a huge blessing. He noted times have been tough for dairy farmers all over Indiana prior to and through the COVID pandemic. Having an opportunity to get his dairy farm’s name out there has been welcomed.
“This is something I never dreamed would happen for us,” Estes said. “It’s just all kind of fallen into my lap, these opportunities with the Indianapolis 500 and the Colts.”
Estes learned about getting a chance at the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway when track president Doug Boles came to the Estes farm and made the announcement.
“That was really neat,” Estes said. “I’m so thankful God has opened these doors for me and my family — our kids are out there working on the farm just like we are daily.”