When it comes to bringing together 65,000 of America’s brightest and most enthusiastic young people in agriculture, they could — so they did.
The Indiana Convention Center has been transformed this week into a bumper crop of blue corduroy and sprawling exhibit booths. Happy laughter was common during the 90th National FFA Convention & Expo. Sometimes, a cheer emerged from a group gathered around one of the booths. On occasion, you could hear the world “Marco” echoing down the vast hallways.
The reply, of course, was a boisterous “Polo!”
As lighthearted as a moment like that can be, it speaks to a larger sentiment of what the convention is all about. Though each person is an individual, as an organization, they are one. Fittingly, “I can. We will,” stands as the theme for 2017.
“We are one country, but it’s such as large diverse country, not just demographically but also agricultural-wise,” said Craig Sickmen, an FFA vice president from Texas who was attending the convention for the first time. “Getting to meet people who are not from the same background as me and getting to learn more about their lives has been really eye-opening to me.”
Another first-time attendee was McKenna Quirk, who’s mom, Dari, was accompanying the chapter as an advisor for the trip.
“I’m feeling pretty inspired that all of the different organizations from across the country come together to support this,” McKenna said. “It’s so great to see that we have that kind of support as we move agriculture forward.”
The afternoon was largely dedicated to showcasing the retail booths and exhibitors as students in groups large and smalls carved their way across the blue-carpeted floor. Many booths had long lines of students eager to learn more — or, in some cases, win more through giveaways. At some of the booths, though, things got downright silly, but that just made it all the more fun.
But that will evolve somewhat throughout the convention, such as during Wednesday evening’s opening session, where speakers inspire the FFA members in their craft and highlight the need to continue doing exactly what they’re doing.
For some attendees, such as Brad Hochstetler from northern Indiana, it’s exactly what he looks forward to.
“I like the big sessions where we all gather and get to listen to the speakers,” said Hochstetler, at the convention for the third time.
Ultimately, the event rolled smoothly through Wednesday, and people there to enjoy it often praised how it turned out.
“I was a little nervous at first,” said Texas’ Sickman, “but our national association has done a fantastic job of making us feel at home here in Indiana.”