Got milk? County man at Indy does

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When Helio Castroneves crossed the yard of bricks on Sunday to win the Indianapolis 500, he also began to participate in several traditions involving the race and the race winner.

One of the biggest and most revered is the drinking of milk in the winner’s circle – and this year Switzerland County played a role in that tradition.

Franklin Weaver, who operates a dairy farm of about 120 head of cattle on Coleman Road along with his brother, Rodger, was one of two members of the Indiana Milk Promotion Board who was in Victory Lane following the race – bottle of cold milk in hand.

Each year since 1956 – when Pat Flaherty was the winner, representatives of the Indiana Milk Promotion Board has provided the bottle of milk that the winning driver drinks from.

“The tradition actually started back in 1933, when Louis Meyer won the race and asked for buttermilk to drink following his win,” Franklin Weaver said. “When he won the race for a third time in 1936, he again asked for milk to drink. It was off and on until 1956, and it’s been there ever since.”

Franklin Weaver is a member of the 14-person Indiana Milk Promotion Board representing Southeastern Indiana, a post that he has held for about seven years. He was voted onto the board by his fellow dairy farmers, and represents DFA – Dairy Farmers of America – on the board.

Each year one member is chosen to be one of two members of the board who are part of the ceremony. Once chosen, you represent the board for two years, according to Franklin Weaver.

“The first year is like your ‘rookie’ year,” he said. “That was me this year. I got to give bottles of milk to the winning car owner and the chief mechanic.”

The honor of handing the bottle of milk to the winning driver is bestowed on the second year representative, and this year that was Sam Scheppy from near Evansville.

“I think it was the first time that we’ve had two from the southern part of the state for quite some time,” Franklin Weaver said.

Next year, Franklin Weaver will hand the winner that bottle of milk.

“That’s pretty exciting to think about,” he said.

But being in Victory Lane was just a part of the overall festivities.

Franklin Weaver and Sam Scheppy also participated in the 500 Festival Parade, riding on the Indiana Milk Promotion Board float and holding up the bottles of milk for all to see – for the entire three-mile parade route.

“That was a little long, but it was worth it,” Franklin Weaver laughed.

Making the parade even more special was that his son, Kyle Weaver, the extension educator for Switzerland County, also got to ride on the float. He rode in the float’s barn along with the Princess and the Indiana Dairy Queen.

“It was a really fantastic parade,” Franklin Weaver said.

Franklin Weaver also did several television and radio interviews during his time at the event; and says that representing all of the dairy farmers in Indiana is “quite a thrill”.

So did he get to see any of the race itself?

“I got to see a little bit of it,” he said. “There was a lot of things going on and we were pretty busy.”