In-person or virtual? That’s the question for every event these days, and the Illinois FFA has an answer for its annual convention: both.
“It’s going to be a hybrid convention so everything will be available online, but there will be some in-person events,” says Illinois FFA President Lexi Mueller.
The 2021 Illinois FFA State Convention will take place over three weeks — a whirlwind of activity that’s being carefully planned out by Illinois FFA officers and staff. Look for virtual sessions and a roadshow of live award presentations across the state. Then, the whole convention will culminate in live awards, elections and speeches at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand on June 8-10.
“We’re very excited to be able to offer some in-person opportunities for our members across the state who have been virtual this year,” says Mindy Bunselmeyer, executive director of the Illinois FFA. Bunselmeyer says all plans are being made to follow state and local coronavirus health and safety guidelines.
Here’s a look at the schedule:
- May 28. Business session, via Zoom
- June 1. Districts 1 and 2 award sessions, Cornbelters Corn Crib, Normal
- June 4. District 5 award session, Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Stadium, Carbondale
- June 8. Stars Over Illinois and retiring officer goodbyes, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield
- June 9. Districts 3 and 4 award sessions, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield
- June 10. 2021-2022 Illinois FFA State Officer team elections, National Chapter Awards, and address from National FFA officer and Illinois native Miriam Hoffman, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield
“We know we’ll be the traveling band of merry FFA members, traveling from Bloomington down to Carbondale, but we’re excited about that, too,” Bunselmeyer says with a laugh. “We know the stories we can tell in the end of this will be pretty monumental and historic, and a little bit nerve-wracking. But we’re excited!”
Bunselmeyer says she and her team are really excited to recognize all the state degree and proficiency award winners in person this year, and to offer up the chance for the traditional photo under the arch, which will travel to each location. With the exception of the business session, each day will allow in-person and virtual viewing options.
Plus, they’ll hold elections in person at the grandstand. Bunselmeyer says they’ll still allow each school to let their delegates vote from home if they’re not allowed to travel.
“We’re really excited about the three days at the grandstand,” she says. The FFA team planned the entire event knowing some schools allow overnight travel and some don’t, so they worked hard to meet both needs.
“If we can do an event in-person in the regions farther from Springfield, we can still make it a day event without an overnight — and we can still recognize students in person,” she explains. “We just couldn’t put on a convention knowing so many schools are told they can’t stay overnight.”
As of this writing, capacity at each of the three outdoor venues is limited to 20% of seating capacity. That still allows for 2,500 to 3,000 people, and the organization hopes the state will have reached Phase 4.5 by June, allowing for total capacity.
Further COVID-19 requirements will include no handshakes, masks and social distancing from members of other chapters.