The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 29, 2013

Ag Day to feature lunch, zoo

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Where else can one grab lunch for 50 cents and pet some farm animals but at Danville Area Community College’s Ag Day 2013?

Children and adults, including farmers and city dwellers alike, will find a variety of activities available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday in the Mary Miller Gym on the DACC campus.

Ag Day is free and open to the public, except for the farmer’s price barbecue sandwich lunch for 50 cents.

The event, which marks its 37th year, is hosted by DACC’s Ag Club, with the support of area agricultural organizations, businesses and individuals.

DACC instructor Craig Potter has organized Ag Day for the last 16 years.

“It started out as Farm/City Day,” he said of the event’s history.

The annual event wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of 60-plus FFA students from all over the area, including chapters at Georgetown-Ridge Farm, Armstrong-Potomac, Catlin, Chrisman, Hoopeston-Bismarck, Jamaica, Oakwood and Shiloh.

Long before the 1,750 expected visitors begin arriving that day, Potter said he and some of the FFA members will be turning on roasters and transporting livestock for the petting zoos.

Some FFA members help monitor the petting zoos while others help serve the meal, Potter said.

“We start at 7 a.m. to be ready to serve by 11 a.m.,” he said.

Potter is referring to serving the most popular feature of the event — which is certain to draw a crowd once again — the barbecue sandwich lunch.

The 50-cent lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Mary Miller Gym. Carryout lunches, however, will not be available.

The lunch will consist of a pork barbecue sandwich, applesauce, baked beans, potato chips and milk, pop or water and will be served for 50 cents — the price the farmer usually receives for these products after producing and selling them.

Donations beyond 50 cents are also welcome.

“We fed 1,500 in an hour last year,” Potter said.

“It takes at least 24 students to get the people through the lines quickly, and another eight to 10 students working behind the scenes,” he said.

Potter recalls the lunch used to cost 35 cents about 16 years ago when he took over the event, but the current 50-cent price hasn’t been raised in about 10 years and probably should be.

At 50 cents, the lunch is not a money maker, but rather “a community service to show the role of agriculture in our community,” Potter said.

Besides the lunch, other activities offered that day include two barnyard petting zoos provided by the Georgetown-Ridge Farm and Armstrong-Potomac FFA chapters, pedal tractor pulls for the children hosted by the Catlin FFA, and tractor and farm equipment displays from Birkey’s.

The annual event also draws 1,300 to 1,500 children to pet and view the farm animals.

Many local schools and day care centers bring children to the Ag Day activities, with FFA students taking the children on tours through DACC’s ornamental horticultural building, the Harry Braun Technology Center and the college’s state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Potter said the number of schoolchildren in attendance at last year’s Ag Day was down because the event fell right before spring break, but that is not the case this year.

“We may be overrun with little kids this year,” he joked.

Marigolds and agriculture-related coloring books will be given away near the technology center.

Local FFA chapters, DACC, ag businesses and community organizations also will have exhibits and informational booths set up in the Mary Miller Gym.

A few of the ag-related organizations that will be on hand include Vermilion County Farm Bureau, Soil and Water Conservation District, U.S. Department of Agriculture and possibly a feed company.

“This event has a life of its own,” Potter said. “It’s amazing how it all comes together every year.”