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Viroqua FFA Alumni celebrates 50 years

The members are proud to have an active organization that continues to support the local chapter and the community.

May 31, 2024

5 Min Read
a group of adults and high school students stand behind a table full of boxed food items
HELPING THOSE IN NEED: From fall 2016 through spring 2022, the Viroqua FFA Alumni helped provide food to children in need over the weekends during the school year. PHOTOS COURTESY OF VIROQUA FFA ALUMNI

The Viroqua FFA Alumni is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the support to the local FFA chapter, Viroqua Area Schools students and the community.

On June 6, 1974, the Viroqua FFA Alumni organized and received its charter certificate. Gene Schroeder says the alumni charter came about that year because Viroqua native Gary Kirking was a Wisconsin FFA officer, and the state alumni organization was new and seeking more participation. The state FFA officer team was charged with the task of going to the FFA chapters in their divisions to boost interest in starting alumni charters.

At Viroqua’s first meeting, Carl Volden was elected and served as the first president of the organization. Charter members include: Duane Ekern, Lee Nerison, Gary Kirking, Gene Schroeder, Roger Swenson, Paul Adams, Curtis Nelson, David Slack, Robert Kirking, Carl Volden, Paul Erickson, Hans Hanson, Stan Zube, Paul Zube, Steven Zube, Marc Ames, Paul Buhr, Chuck Oldenburg, Ole Yttri, Carter Thompson, Orvis Hornby, Michael Amundson, Daniel Sandwick, Stanley Sherry, Mark Sherry, Alan Sherry, Randy Nigh, Larry Yttri, David Hornby, Gary Thompson, Chris Fortney and Mike McClurg.

VIROQUA FFA ALUMNI 50th anniversary logo

In the early years, Viroqua FFA Alumni supported FFA by helping pay for leadership training trips to Washington, D.C, and trips to the National FFA Convention. This support continues today.

The alumni held a cattle consignment sale at the county fairgrounds for a number of years and built a sale ring that was used by many groups. The ramps for semis and trucks for loading and unloading animals at the Vernon County Fair and the Wisconsin State Fair were built by the alumni group.

A “Nuts and Bolts” sale was held for at least one year, a bus trip to a Packers game was sponsored another year, and the group served a pancake breakfast at the Heritage Days in Viroqua. The alumni would go on farm visits of applicants for the awards given at the local FFA banquet.

The Viroqua FFA Alumni received recognition at the state alumni convention in 1989 for adding 34 members and five life memberships that year.

The first Viroqua FFA Alumni Ag Dinner and Dance was held March 20, 1985, at the Viroqua Eagles Club. It was usually held on a Wednesday night for National Ag Day. It was held there for a couple of years before moving to the Viking Inn. The fundraiser then got a new name, the Viroqua FFA Alumni Fundraiser, moved to the VFW and has been held on a Saturday night.

1985 was the first year the alumni started serving ice cream cones at the Nelson Agri-Center Sales Fair. For many years, Orvis and Delores Hornby headed up the volunteers. When they stopped, Myron Hornby took on that responsibility and is still organizing workers. The group has since changed to serving shakes — almost 40 years of serving ice cream! Nelson Agri-Center has always furnished the ice cream and supplies, allowing the alumni to keep all the proceeds.

Man getting a milkshake from a machine

The organization today

In October 2015, to honor FFA Advisor Lloyd Hardy’s 25th anniversary of teaching, the Viroqua FFA Alumni donated a head chute to be used for weigh-ins at the fairgrounds.

From fall 2016 through spring 2022, the alumni were committed to a project called Hawk Packs, which involved purchasing, packing and delivering food weekly to Viroqua Area Schools students in need for the weekends during the school year.

In 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group helped Nelson Agri-Center during the sales fair to serve lunch to shoppers outside under the tent. The alumni has donated food for harvesttime lunches that FFA members deliver to farmers.

Since 1989, the alumni has purchased a pig from an FFA member at the Vernon County Fair and used the meat for its annual Tasty Sandwich cookout fundraiser at Nelson Agri-Center.

group of people standing in front of a gravity flow wagon with several of them holding grain bin rescue tubes

The commitment to supporting the Viroqua FFA Chapter has grown over the years as its needs have grown. Past major support includes $3,600 to buy a tractor to rebuild and then sell. Computer software was purchased for a specific program to aid in applying for awards available through the FFA. In 2020, the alumni purchased $925 of cheese curds that were added to school lunch bags and given to students during the pandemic.

The alumni has supported FFA members for years by giving scholarships. The budgeted scholarship amount has also increased over the years. Presently, the annual scholarship budget is $5,000 per year. The total amount is divided if over five applicants apply.

In January 2023, the alumni paid $7,000 for the dairy vending machine in the Viroqua High School. The FFA keeps it stocked and receives the proceeds. The alummi paid $350 for the harvest lunches that FFA members delivered to workers in the fields.

Also, this past year, alumni support included $1,090 for FFA jackets; $1,528 for FFA T-shirts; and $1,343 for FFA members to attend the National FFA Convention. The alumni paid $800 toward payment for FFA dues, and $187 for pizza for an evening to help members fill out awards applications followed by a game night.

Past members say the camaraderie is what made and held this group together all those years ago, and it is still true today. Fifty years later, members are proud to have an active organization.

Source: Viroqua FFA Alumni

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