No more milk mustaches.

Even the lactose-intolerant were welcome at Dairy World!

Nature's Best Dairy, 2032 Plainfield Pike, (Route 14), Cranston.

From 1997 to 2000, Nature's Best Dairy conducted tours for more than 50,000 visitors at Dairy World, located in its Cranston facility at 2032 Plainfield Pike. And why not? Who would pass up the opportunity to look behind the scenes of Rhode Island's largest processor of fresh milk and juices? It was just like on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood when Picture Picture showed you how candy was made, except you were really there!

During those years, school and church groups, Cub Scout packs, Girl Scout troops, and random tourists searching for a quirky thrill all found their way to Dairy World. There, they were greeted by a mechanical talking cow who ushered them into a world of lactose delights. Upon paying the $1 admission, the first stop was a small amphitheater, where visitors sat on carpeted risers to watch an informative video, narrated by a Scrappy Doo-esque milk carton character. While learning about the disturbing origins of all their favorite dairy products, children were also treated to excellent examples of porno film-style wah-wah guitar on the soundtrack.

Shielding their eyes against the glare of the overhead fluorescents, visitors then stumbled back out into the front area where they could push buttons on interactive displays covering the evolution of the paperboard milk carton, before moving on to learn all they ever wanted to know about the history of refrigerated transportation. Imagine the excitement on a young child's face as she watched all four stomachs of a life-sized fiberglass cow light up one by one!

Their button-pushing desires sated for the moment, tour ticket-holders were then led to the production viewing room, where they could observe milk and juices being processed and packaged. Now was the time for folks to ask the tour guide all of the milk questions that had been building up inside them their whole lives, like, "Why do I hawk up so much phlegm after I've had a glass of milk?" "Is yogurt really alive?," and the ever-popular, "What's the difference between double cream and whipping cream?"

After the tour, the guide would lead people back to the Cowlection Corner gift shop, hoping they would purchase some of the fine, dairy-related gifts, including key rings, refrigerator magnets, and battery-operated walking/mooing cows. For a limited time, free "Got Milk?" posters were even given out.

Out in the parking lot, the fun wasn't over yet. Looking at all of that stainless steel packaging machinery could induce a powerful hunger, and the Ice Cream Barn was there to fill that void with multiple flavors of ice cream. And the little ones certainly couldn't resist the lure of the little carousel, purchased by Nature's Best president Allen Cicchitelli at the Rocky Point Amusement Park auction in 1996. Built around 1945, the ride was designed by Allan Herschell, and included thirty painted aluminum horses and two chariots.

Thus indoctrinated, thousands of children marched off into the world with a fuller knowledge of—and appreciation for—dairy products.

Oh, the bovinity!

But sadly, that fun is over. In 2000, Nature's Best Dairy was swallowed up by Suiza Foods Corporation, a huge Dallas-based conglomerate. The same company acquired Garelick Farms in 1997, West Lynn Creamery and Cumberland Farms' dairy production units in 1998, and Stop & Shop's milk business in 2000. It seems that Nature's Best proved superfluous to Suiza's needs, because on August 8, 2000, the doors of Dairy World were closed forever. Store fixtures, including the beloved talking cow, were soon auctioned off.

Suiza then merged with Chicago-based Dean Foods Company in December 2001, becoming an even bigger and scarier conglomerate.

Operating under a lease agreement, the Ice Cream Barn in the former Dairy World parking lot continued to serve the public though the end of the summer of 2001, and the old Rocky Point kiddy carousel likewise continued to turn. But as of the beginning of 2002, the ice cream business moved to Olde Country Ice Cream at 95 Greenville Avenue in Johnston. The carousel disappeared and its current whereabouts are unknown.

The Nature's Best property was purchased by Goldman Properties LLC, owner of Greylawn Foods, in August 2002, and now serves as Greylawn's headquarters.

But the memory of Dairy World lingers on in low-quality JPEGs of the outside and inside of Dairy World's brochure, circa 1999.

Empty and sad. (February 2002).

Who now will speak for the cow? (February 2002).

Nary a dairy-themed gift to be seen. (February 2002).

Trailers rust in the side lot. (June 2008).

No more deliveries: old milk boxes stacked in a trailer. (February 2002).

This article last edited December 1, 2015

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