By MICHELE F. MIHALJEVICH
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The National FFA Convention & Expo begins next week, but the organization’s officers will kick off the event tomorrow by dyeing a portion of the city’s downtown canal blue. The 90th convention is Oct. 25-28.
The dyeing will start at 10 a.m. with a press conference at the Ohio Street Basin of the Downtown Canal in Indianapolis. About 64,000 people, including more than 50,000 students, are expected to attend the convention itself, said Kristy Meyer, FFA communications manager. Attendees will represent all 50 states.
“For our members, the conference is an opportunity for award winners to receive recognition on stage, but they also have the opportunity to meet members from across the country and take what they learned back to their communities,” she said.
“There are student workshops and chances for them to really explore career opportunities. There’s really something for everyone. Our theme is ‘I Can. We Will.’ In FFA, they can succeed and they can also see how powerful their voice in agriculture can be.”
Victoria Harris, FFA’s national secretary, hopes the convention helps members realize their own potential and capabilities.
“Our theme, ‘I Can. We Will,’ focuses on how individually we can all create an impact and how together we can commit and truly see the result of our efforts,” she explained. “Through all parts of convention – sessions to workshops to the expo center – I want this convention to allow every member to understand their importance and power.”
Harris said it’s been rewarding to develop convention content that “shines a light on students, teachers and supporters – the real stars of this convention.
“This year, we’ve also campaigned for more diversity and inclusion efforts and have subtly found ways to incorporate this platform into so many aspects of convention, from our song selections to creating a convention ‘bucket list’ to encourage student interactions,” she said.
The keynote speaker on day one of the conference will be Laila Ali, former professional boxer and daughter of the late heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Ali is a television host and author of a book on healthy comfort food scheduled for release in January 2018.
At press time, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue was also scheduled to speak on the conference’s opening day, Meyer said. Country vocal group Rascal Flatts will perform that evening at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Convention events will be at the Indiana Convention Center, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and other facilities at the state fairgrounds, and at seven area hotels. The event could pump $36 million-$40 million into city and state coffers, she added.
FFA members will have the opportunity to participate in Career Success Tours focusing on eight areas – agribusiness, animal, biotechnology, environmental service, food products and processing, natural resources, plant and power, structural and technical systems. Tour sites include Beck’s Hybrids, Chip Ganassi Racing, Dow AgroSciences and Lawson Land & Cattle Co.
One of the more popular convention-related activities is the National Days of Service, which Meyer said usually fills up quickly. Approximately 1,900 FFA members will work at 15 locations, including community centers and food pantries, performing such tasks as painting, planting trees and general cleanup.
Last year, the convention returned to Indianapolis for the first time since 2012 and will remain here through 2024. It was in Kansas City from 1928-98, Louisville, Ky., from 1999-2005 and Indianapolis from 2006-12. It was back in Louisville from 2013-15.
Online registration will continue until the start of the convention. For more information, a schedule and to register, visit www.ffa.org/events/convention