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Illinois FFA ready to meet in person
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Illinois FFA ready to meet in person

Illinois FFA state officers

From left, Illinois FFA state officers Molly Schempp, state vice president; Emma Kuhns, state treasurer; Margaret Vaessen, state reporter; Lexi Mueller, state president and Jordi Oliver, state secretary are preparing for in-person conventions in June.

Illinois FFA members will soon get a chance to see many of their friends in person for the 2021 convention.

Instead of a three-day conference at a Springfield convention center, the 2021 Illinois FFA State Convention will be at three different venues — in Normal, Carbondale and Springfield — on three different days in June. Most of the convention events will offer both in-person and online options.

“Like any great corn seed, the 2021 Illinois State FFA Convention is a hybrid,” said Mindy Bunselmeyer, Illinois FFA Center executive director. “With coronavirus guidelines top of mind, we are thrilled to host in-person honors for the FFA members who have worked tirelessly through an exhausting year.”

All five of the state officers and all 25 of the section leaders will be at each of the events.

“It will be so cool to have everyone together,” said Margaret Vaessen, Illinois FFA state reporter.

“We take the state guidelines very seriously,” she said of working out the complicated logistics of planning such a large event during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With that in mind, three outdoor locations were chosen in central cities so that FFA members and their families can go to the two-hour events in one day.

“Many schools are not allowed to attend overnight events, but these district sessions allow FFA chapters to attend in person while keeping their travel within a reasonable day,” Vaessen said.

Even though federal guidelines for mask wearing for fully vaccinated people have changed in recent weeks, masks will be required.

“A great deal of our students are ages 13 to 18 and don’t have vaccines,” Bunselmyer said.

So, as part of the safety protocol to enter any of the events, a person needs to be wearing the 2021 FFA Convention button and a mask, she said.

Three separate district awards meetings will be held to accommodate five districts in the state. Northern Illinois students meet at CornBelters Corn Crib in Normal on June 1; southern Illinois students at Southern Illinois University Saluki Stadium in Carbondale June 4; and central Illinois students at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield June 9.

Stars Over Illinois and National Chapter Award recognitions and state officer elections will be hosted over two days at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Illinois Director of Agriculture Jerry Costello will speak there June 8. Miriam Hoffman, an Illinois native and Eastern Region Vice President, will give the keynote address on June 9.

The three outdoor venues allowing social distancing will allow more people to attend each event. Vaessen said they expect about 1,000 people to attend in Normal, and likely about 500 each in each southern venue.

There is a lot of excitement to meet in person again, she said.

“We’re making history,” Vaessen said of the multi-site, in-person and online FFA celebration.

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Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.

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