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Big FFA crowd makes it unlikely Albion will host convention again

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – About 160 FFA students crowd into the middle school band room, waiting to be awarded Empire Degrees. The auditorium was full so these students had to wait in a different room.

ALBION – Don’t expect to see the FFA state convention return to Albion again. The school is too small to accommodate the growing crowd of students, advisors, chaperones and parents who come from all corners of the state.

“We’re done because we’ve run out of room,” said Adam Krenning, Albion’s FFA advisor and agriculture teacher.

In 2007, about 800 FFA students, advisors and chaperones came to Albion for the three-day state FFA convention.

When the school hosted the event May 2-4, there were 1,106 students and about 500 more adults on the school campus for the convention.

There weren’t enough seats in the middle school auditorium for closing ceremonies on May 4, forcing Albion to crowd 160 students into the band room. Those students were receiving their Empire Degrees, the highest award for FFA in New York. They watched the closing ceremonies on television while waiting their turn on stage.

FFA has soared in popularity in recent years with new chapters opening and existing chapters adding members. That reality makes it difficult to find a school that can handle the influx of people.

Not only does the school need a big auditorium with about 2,000 seats, but it needs several nearby hotels to house all the guests. Most of the visiting FFA students stayed in Batavia, a half-hour drive, during the recent convention.

Most rural schools don’t have 1,000 hotel rooms so close by. And most rural schools that offer FFA programs don’t have auditoriums that can fit the FFA crowd.

Medina will host the convention next year. That school has a smaller auditorium than Albion’s. Medina will need to use technology so students and guests can witness the events live in other rooms, besides the auditorium, said Todd Eick, Medina’s FFA advisor.

“It’s an outstanding problem to have,” he said about the space crunch. “There are some new schools started chapters and the numbers are rising.”

The big numbers for the convention are eliminating some long-time host sites, and may result in designating regional locations for the FFA convention. That could mean the convention center in Rochester, said Krenning, a member of the state FFA’s governing board.

The convention was held two years in a row at Cobleskill State College. Those conventions in 2010 and ’11, were in partnership with the Walton and Sidney FFA chapters.

Jenny McKenna, the Albion FFA president, prefers to see the convention rotate sites so students can experience new areas.

“If they do it in the same location so many years in a row, it’s not as exciting for the students,” she said.

The experience on the college campus didn’t work too well when junior high and high school students were sharing a campus with college students. But Krenning said the FFA leaders are wondering if the convention could be at a college following commencement when the campus is mostly empty. The students could then stay in dorms, have access to classrooms and a big auditorium, and participate in tours of local agriculture.

Some FFA officials have suggested two schools close together share their facilities for a convention. But that would still leave FFA with an auditorium that’s too small. And Krenning said he wouldn’t want to be split up on two campuses for a convention.

FFA leaders need to work out a solution so the students can all be accommodated, Eick said.

“It’s definitely something that needs to be talked about,” he said.