Some 2,000 FFA members, parents and guests are expected at one time or another on the Purdue University campus this week. It's the annual Indiana FFA State Convention, and there's a twist this year.
Members will still wear their official dress, including blue jackets and black pants or skirt. But by Thursday morning, it will be tough to find a blue jacket on campus. In the past, the business session and election of officers occurred Thursday morning, with adjournment around noon. This year the convention will conclude Wednesday evening, at the end of the 4:30 p.m. session.
The change may not seem significant, but it's the first major change in schedule of the state convention in more than three decades. For a group that steeped in tradition to make a change this significant, it's worth noting.
"Some teachers were noting that the extra night out made the trip more costly," notes Joe Park, a veteran ag teacher at Indian Creek High School, Trafalgar, Ind. "This will cut a night's motel bill and food costs off for many chapters."
Call it a sign of the times- even FFA isn't recession-proof. What's more likely is that tough economic times and the changes in property tax collection and distribution are affecting schools as well. While those things don't affect FFA directly, more schools are asking for reimbursement for mileage from school groups when they use school vehicles. That includes from some FFA chapters. In some cases, those charges amount to significant dollars, and are eating away at monies used for other activities in the past.
The trade-off to ending Wednesday evening is that contests begin today at 9 am sharp, instead of the traditional start time on Monday afternoon. So some chapters with members in state contests may have spent Sunday night in Lafayette.
The first actual session will be this evening at 7 p.m., instead of the traditional Tuesday afternoon opening session. State officers will recognize their parents Tuesday evening. The slate of new state officer nominees won't be released until the end of the session Tuesday evening. Official election of new state officers will take place in the final session Wednesday afternoon.
Advance word is that Brian Buchanan, Indiana FFA Foundation executive director, will announce a near-record fund-raising year with $600,000 in donations during the convention. However, that includes grants and part of the funds are designated for specific causes. Sources say the Give hope campaign started to set up an endowment fund to guarantee continuation of the Indiana FFA Leadership Center near Trafalgar is off to a slow start, two years after it began.
Stay tuned for more news from the Indiana FFA.