Eric Wellman, 22, right, a 2006 Moffat County High School graduate, and Shiloh Wittler, 22, of Walsh, take a break from helping set up the state FFA convention Monday in the MCHS gymnasium. The convention starts today and runs through Thursday at the high school.

Photo by Brian Smith

Eric Wellman, 22, right, a 2006 Moffat County High School graduate, and Shiloh Wittler, 22, of Walsh, take a break from helping set up the state FFA convention Monday in the MCHS gymnasium. The convention starts today and runs through Thursday at the high school.

FFA convention comes to Craig

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Mike Womochil, FFA state program director, hangs sponsor signs Monday in preparation for the Colorado FFA convention while Jared Oestman, a past FFA state officer, holds a ladder at the Moffat County High School gymnasium.

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Kenton Ochsner, state FFA advisor, front, helps David Wall, center, owner of SNOB productions in Grand Junction, set up video and lighting components for the state FFA convention Monday in the Moffat County High School gymnasium.

Mandi Ellgen, who will be a senior at Moffat County High School in the fall, recently won the FFA’s district competition for extemporaneous speaking.

Today, however, she will be competing on a slightly bigger stage during the FFA’s state convention in Craig.

“I’m probably not going to be too nervous until right before,” she said. “… But once I get my topic, I usually feel pretty good and … once I get going I’m usually OK.”

As part of the extemporaneous speaking competition, Ellgen will be speaking on an unknown agriculture subject. If she wins, she will go to the national FFA competition.

“I’m just happy to have made it this far,” Ellgen said. “It’s really fun just to be able to meet the other kids who are doing it and I have enjoyed it so much already, so whatever happens, I’ll be really happy.”

FFA, also known as Future Farmers of America, hosts its competition in a different Colorado city each year. Craig hosted the convention in the late 1960s and again in 2001, said John Haddan, a MCHS agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor.

The convention features various events, keynote speakers, presentations and competitions.

About 1,500 students from more than 100 different high schools in Colorado are attending the event, which starts today and goes through Thursday.

The convention is open to the public, but state FFA advisor Kenton Ochsner said $10 donations are suggested.

Ellgen isn’t the only MCHS student competing in this

year’s convention.

Karissa Maneotis, who will also be a senior at MCHS in the fall, will be giving a prepared speech on a sheepherding bill.

Maneotis won the district competition for prepared public speaking and will be giving the same speech in hopes of winning state.

“With my parents running commercial sheep, I knew about this legislation coming and how it would affect my family personally,” she said.

Maneotis said she is somewhat nervous about performing her speech in front of a hometown crowd.

“It’s going to be the whole gym filled, so it’s going to be a bit intimidating, but I think I can handle it pretty well,” she said.

Ochsner said the convention will focus on three main areas.

The first area will be on student career development through the prepared public speaking, extemporaneous speaking and parliamentary procedure competitions, he said.

An agriculture science fair will also display students’ research projects on topics ranging from animal and plant science, to physics, he said.

Career and leadership workshops will also be offered throughout the convention.

Ochsner said FFA is the “leadership component of agriculture education,” and the program is important to students’ futures.

“FFA is really where they can enhance their leadership skills, (and) personal development to hopefully make them successful in their future,” he said.

Haddan, who is also helping organize the convention, said it is a good event for the Craig community.

“It’s a good thing to have all the hotels full for three or four days,” he said. “… Anytime we can bring 1,500 students, advisors to Craig, it’s going to help with our local economy.”

Ellgen said she was excited to have students from around the state come and experience Northwest Colorado.

“It’s really exciting to me because I have been to these conventions before and by coming here, they get to see our school and our town, and it’s just really exciting to show what our community has to offer,” she said.

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