By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The 85th National FFA Convention and Expo, set for Oct. 24-27 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, offers a wide range of educational, volunteer and entertainment opportunities.
Although Indianapolis is home to the national headquarters of FFA, the convention will leave the city next year for Louisville, Ky. According to Lori Randle, FFA regional director, the convention will be hosted by Louisville for three years, 2013-15, before returning to Indianapolis in 2016.
“FFA has learned that members gain significant educational and developmental experiences by coming to an urban area for the convention. By alternating the convention and expo every three years, FFA members and teachers have opportunities to experience several urban environments during their term of membership, and will benefit from a dramatically different set of educational tours of businesses and agricultural operations in the surrounding locales,” Randle said.
“The rotation also allows us the ability to more effectively sustain a base of community volunteers when each city has a three-year break. We will have had seven marvelous years in Indianapolis when our convention ends this year.”
Opportunities to help others during the convention abound, with the Rally to Fight Hunger and National Days of Service.
The Rally is being launched as part of the organization’s Feeding the World Starting at Home initiative. The rally will engage as many as 10,000 members, advisors, sponsors, local volunteers and other stakeholders from across the country in hour-long shifts over a three-day period at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Volunteers will assemble meals and nutritional supplements to provide relief from hunger and malnutrition. The goal is to package more than a million meals with half being distributed through Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis and the other half shipped overseas (see related article in this section).
At the time of this writing, few time slots remained for volunteers to register.
National Days of Service, however, offers opportunities through the Agape Therapeutic Riding Center, Central Indiana Land Trust, Damar Services, Gleaners Food Bank, Indy Parks, Jameson Camp, Joy’s House, Maplelawn Farmstead, Second Helpings and the St. Vincent de Paul Pantry.
As one would expect, the keynote speakers will bring uplifting, encouraging messages to those in attendance. Speakers include:
•Scott Hamilton – Along with being one of the most recognized figure skaters in the world, Hamilton is a published author, Emmy Award winner and cancer and brain tumor survivor.
•Dr. Lowell Catlett – A professor in agricultural economics and agricultural business, he is described as an exciting futurist whose knowledge of technologies and their implications on the way we will live and work is addressed in his upbeat presentations.
•Walter Bond – Overcoming a devastating injury, Bond became the first NBA rookie free agent to start on opening night. He went on to have a successful eight-year basketball career with the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons.
•Josh Bleill – A native of Greenfield, Ind., Bleill attended Purdue University and joined the Marine Corps. He was seriously injured in Iraq, resulting in the loss of both legs. He returned to Indiana in 2008 and now serves as the Indiana Colts’ community spokesman.
Educational tours include The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum/ Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Indiana Historical Society, Indiana War Memorial Museum, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Zoo, Dow AgroSciences, Apple Family Farm, English’s Buffalo Farm, Kelsay Farms, Soy Creations, Purdue University and more.
The FFA website also lists tours in various parts of the state as well as in Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky, allowing convention attendees to visit on their way to or from the convention.
A convention that consists primarily of young people isn’t all about learning and work. Entertainment includes The World’s Toughest Rodeo in Pepsi Coliseum on Thursday and Friday. The rodeo will be the last event in the coliseum before it undergoes extensive renovation; a special closing ceremony is set Friday to commemorate the building’s rich history.
Members also are invited to enjoy a concert by The Band Perry with special guest Brantley Gilbert, a dance and performances by hypnotists.
For more information on the 85th National FFA Convention and Expo, visit www.ffa.org and click on the “events” link.