NORMAL, Ill. — Both first-time and veteran FFA members got a new experience in attending the 93rd annual Illinois FFA Convention.
COVID-19 rules complicated the planning for the events, which in the end had three locations, in Normal, Springfield and Carbondale. All events were offered online as well. Each event included awards, celebration, music and conversations with friends.
“FFA is back,” Illinois FFA state president Lexi Mueller of Valmeyer declared to a crowd of 1,753 guests and members at the first part of the conference at the Corn Crib in Normal June 1.
The state reporter Margaret Vaessen led a cheer for FFA, complete with pompoms.
Emily Lesko of Naperville enjoyed the full experience. Lesko, the chapter president of Naperville North High School in northeastern Illinois, walked onto the ball park’s decorated stage to receive her Section Star in Agribusiness award and her State Degree.
“On the first day in high school, I heard about FFA from my advisor,” Lesko said.
She signed up, and now the junior will be Section 8 FFA president next year.
When her advisor Lauren Frances arrived at the suburban Chicago high school three years ago, there was no FFA.
“Many students didn’t know what it was,” the agricultural science teacher said.
The program has grown from zero to 25 students and continues to grow.
Parents also shared in the excitement. Many gathered in front of the stage and took photos as their family members were recognized. Christy Penman took some video when her daughter, Paige, was a featured performer between awards.
The conventions continued with an event at Southern Illinois University Saluki Stadium in Carbondale June 4 and the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield June 9. All five state leaders and all 25 sections leaders planned to attend each.
Elections, more awards, and speakers were planned for the finale June 10 in Springfield.