National FFA Convention Goes Virtual
The Indianapolis-based National FFA Organization has announced this year’s National FFA Convention & Expo will be held in a virtual format. The organization says it has also extended its contract with Indianapolis, keeping the convention in the city through 2033.
The FFA says the convention will take place as planned during the week of October 28 with virtual events, activities and competitions. The event will still be hosted by the 2019-20 National FFA Officer Team.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, National FFA Associate Director of Convention and Events Mandy Hazlett said the decision was not made lightly.
“We’re keeping our eye out on everything that’s going on when it comes to CDC and their guidelines and how everyone’s own city and states and communities are opening back up,” said Hazlett. “We also have been playing very close attention and doing a lot of our research and surveying at the state FFA and local in-school administration level. Unfortunately, there’s just a massive amount of travel restrictions put on schools and so it’s hard for us to hold a convention when we don’t have our FFA members here with us.”
The organization says it plans to return to Indianapolis with an in-person event in 2021. The National FFA Board of Directors approved a two-year extension for the convention to be held in Indianapolis.
“This is such a great community,” said Hazlett. “The hospitality and tourism here is truly the best of the best and so we live here, we work here and so the decision for us to go ahead and continue our contract beyond 2031 and extend it to 2033, it was a no brainer for us. We want to show that we fully support Indianapolis and the state of Indiana and keeping our convention here another two years, it was a way for us to say ‘We’re in this with you.'”
The National FFA Convention draws about 70,000 attendees to downtown Indianapolis each year, generating approximately $40 million in economic impact.
Hazlett says while the organization is planning to return to an in-person convention next year, future events could also feature virtual aspects.
“For the last several years, we’ve always streamed live our our sessions, but I think now…we’ll also look at continuing maybe to open up some of the other areas of the convention, maybe around workshops and things like that, that students who can’t make it or travel for whatever reason have the option to maybe be a little bit more involved.”
The change to a virtual format is another blow to the city’s tourism industry. Another major convention, Gen Con, canceled its 2020 event due to COVID-19 concerns as well.
Hazlett says the decision to go virtual was not made lightly.