Day 1: FFA is an activity that never fails to get you out of bed earlier than you would like. In most cases, we have a contest or a practice to look forward to. Today, however, we woke up early to do little more than sit on a bus for ten hours. We departed at 6:30 AM for Dickinson where we met the other schools we would be travelling with. Bowman, Belfield, South Heart, Glen Ullin, Hettinger, and New England made up the group we traveled with. Our transportation for the trip was in the ND Farmers Union Bus which was chartered by Mrs. Fischer from Bowman.
The bus ride proved to be much more enjoyable than we originally thought. It went by quickly, as it was broken up by a stop for lunch, bathroom breaks, the Mall of America, more bathroom breaks, and eventually a stop for supper. Plus with around 40 students from 6 different schools on the bus it definitely gave us a chance to make new friends. While all these roadside destinations were fun, I think we can all agree that our third bathroom break was by far our favorite… just kidding! The Mall of America definitely took the cake.
It was a little bit of a culture shock for us to see the seemingly endless amounts of high-end stores, commercialized products, and concentration of people. With only an hour allowed to spend shopping, we took in all we could from the Mall of America. We then called it a day well spent and departed to our hotel.
Day 2: If you like dairy cows and cranberries as much as we New England girls do, then you would have had a blast if you were with us on Monday. Our advisor did a very good job of making this second day of driving worth the ride. We took a slight detour in Wisconsin to visit a cranberry farm, and needless to say, we had never seen anything like it.
Learning about the harvesting process was especially fascinating. To harvest, the workers flood the cranberry vines with water and use special equipment to knock the cranberries loose, and they naturally float to the top. More workers are ready to sweep these cranberries into special bins to be transported. It felt as if we were living in an Ocean Spray commercial as we watched this process take place.
After the tour, we were treated to pulled pork sandwiches with a homemade cranberry horseradish sauce, a special Wisconsin cheese soup, and ice cream with cranberry topping that local high schoolers had made in their cooking class. With both our stomachs and our hearts filled with cranberries, we continued our journey and took another detour to a dairy farm.
The farm was an incredible operation to say the least. We could tell that our tour guide who is also the head of the farm was very passionate about what she was doing. She was happy to hear that us North Dakotans knew that chocolate milk did not come from brown cows. As we toured her farm, we learned about the dedication it takes to be a dairy farmer. There are not a lot of dairy farms in North Dakota, so I personally learned a lot from that tour. For example, did you know that a dairy cow is well hydrated if it pees for seven seconds or more? I sure didn’t!
One of the best parts about the tour was how interactive it was. We all had the opportunity to milk a cow, and we had time to play with her chickens, geese, goats, sheep, pigs, calves, farm cats, and dog. The farm gave us a feeling of home. Big cities are great in small doses, but farms are much better in large doses.
It was a long, exhausting, but incredibly fun day. We left the dairy farm and drove to our next hotel where we would reenergize for the next full day of events. Our incredibly talented reporter-in-training Brenna graciously offered to inform you on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s events, so this is where I turn it over to her.
“Beep beep beep!” It was the third day of the trip and we were more than excited for what lies ahead.
As we headed into Chicago with wide eyes we stared at the city of huge buildings and overflowing traffic, we made our first stop at the Hancock Building. As we reached the top of the 1,499-foot building we were welcomed by a beautiful view of Lake Michigan surrounded by skyscrapers and the horizon.
As we wondered around the building peering through the giant windows soaking it all in, we closed the tour with a trip into glass tilt boxes that hung over the edge of the building in a thirty-degree angle.
Our tummy’s rumbling, we headed to get genuine Chicago style pizza. It was delicious! It was also unique because they served the sauce over the cheese instead of the cheese over the sauce.
With our bellies full we waddled off to the millennium park to see the giant bean sculpture. On our way there we saw some amazing architecture.
Finishing all our tours for the day we headed to Indianapolis where we would be staying for the rest of the week.
Day 5: It’s Eve again! I’m excited to talk about Wednesday, as it was one of my favorite days. We started the day off touring downtown Indianapolis. Actually, having to look before crossing the street proved to be a struggle for some of us including myself. It was just another one of the big city rules we had to get used to.
We toured the capital building, which was absolutely beautiful. With the fossils in the floor tiles and the stain glass in the ceilings, it could have been mistaken for a castle. We had the opportunity to see special business rooms, courtrooms, and even the governor’s office! The most intriguing thing for me personally was the 9000 pound table sitting in the governor’s office. Built by local prisoners, the table’s design and structure were captivating.
After the capital building, we climbed over 30 flights of stairs to the top of a popular sight-seeing building in Indianapolis-the veterans war memorial. For those who were missing a week worth of sports for the national FFA convention, they sure did not miss out on any conditioning.
Mr. Krebs promised us that we would get to see the Indianapolis zoo, and he did not disappoint. We spent a sizable chunk of Wednesday at the zoo. We saw exotic animals that most of us had never seen before, we petted sharks, and we finished our zoo experience with an entertaining and adorable dolphin show.
We ultimately went on this trip for FFA, so we all were very excited to finally get dressed in our corduroy jackets and go to the opening FFA session. The session was held in Bankers life fieldhouse where the Pacers play basketball, and was nothing short of spectacular, and I’m sure the thousands of FFA members there with us wouldn’t disagree.
Shortly after the session, we made our way to a private FFA concert headlining the one and only, Garth Brooks. For some of us, this was our first concert. That said, Garth set the bar pretty high. We ended up getting floor seat tickets for the concert which was held in Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts play football. Hearing some Garth Brooks classics and also some less-known ones was a great way to end our Wednesday in Indianapolis.
For Thursday and Friday’s events, I once again turn you over to Brenna!
Thanks Eve!! Thursday hit with a bang as we walked into the convention hall. Surrounded by tens of thousands of FFA members. Overwhelmed we headed to take our state picture and cross the first thing off our to do list. We then broke off into groups ready to learn and mingle as we headed to workshops and wondered around the booths meeting people from all over the country.
We waked through aisles and aisles of different booth set up by different companies and colleges. Each one having its own twist from the nation’s hottest hot sauce, live alpacas, and games to participate in.
The workshops were just as fun as it gave us even more chances to meet people and to learn about different areas of agriculture and how it can make an impact. These workshops are held all through the day and are about an hour long.
A fun activity that our Advisor Mr. Krebs encouraged us to do was fill up the back of our guide books with signatures from every state for a prize. One of the most exciting signatures that we received was from Puerto Rico. They were one of the last states on our list and very difficult to find in the sea of people.
As evening drew closer, we left to go to the Indianapolis Scare Park, one of the nation’s top five scare parks. Some of us (Me Brenna Wert) were quite scared to go in, but thanks to a great friend of us New England students, we had Anton Krebs (from Belfield) to lead us through. Even though he did turn around and scare our group a few. times, he cracked jokes and lead us through with no fright making everything way less scary.
To make the most out of our last day, we boarded the bus and rode down to Louisville, Kentucky. Touring the Churchill Downs was an amazing experience and it was very exciting seeing the lovely horses trotting around the track. We also went to the Louisville Slugger factory and got to see how they made professional baseball bats for players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson.
After our wonderful tours we had a relaxing shopping trip, and a delicious supper at the Old Spaghetti Factory where we got to try traditional cream soda.
With tired eyes and full tummy’s, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep before the eighteen-hour journey home.
Day 7: It’s Eve again, and I’m excited to tell you about the least eventful day of the week. Saturday was the only day that no FFA members were looking forward to. Almost twenty hours of driving to get home in one day doesn’t sound like it would be very fun, but somehow Saturday went by as fast as the rest of the days. Whether we were sleeping, playing cards, or writing this article because our advisor told us to, we all found ways to pass the time. We ended up getting home around three A.M., and I think it’s safe to say we were all happy to be home.
A special thanks goes out to Mr. Krebs for taking us on this trip. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, and we couldn’t have asked for a week better spent. Also, if you made it through this article, I’d like to thank you too. Without your support and interest in the FFA chapter, we would not be able to have amazing experiences like this one. Until next time!