DECATUR — For Farm Progress Show organizers, volunteers are fundamental to the success of Decatur’s bi-annual event.
Since the first farm show in 1953, local volunteer groups have played a critical role in making the international show happen.
“Holding a trade show of this magnitude wouldn’t be possible without them,” said Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress Show manager. “They park cars, prepare food, work the info booths, the admission gates, drive the shuttles and many other activities.”
According to Jungmann, this year’s search for volunteers has been successful. “They are critical to the show, but at this point, we don’t need more,” he said.
This year's show takes place Tuesday, Aug. 31, through Thursday, Sept. 2, at Progress City USA on the campus of Richland Community College.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church volunteers have been a part of the Farm Progress Show since the event made its semi-annual home at Progress City in 2005. Kathy E. Carter organizes approximately 50 volunteers each day that work at the seven mini-silo information booths.
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The job requires more than just knowledge of the event. They provide resources among themselves. “I have to have a calm, easy-going person driving the golf cart,” Carter said. “It can take a half an hour to get through, it is so packed.”
Holy Cross volunteers host other fundraisers, such as a ham and bean dinner, Angel Tree donations during Christmas, concerts and a noisy offering with a coin donation competition between Cubs and Cardinals baseball fans. “That allows the kids to get involved,” Carter said.
Many 2020 events were canceled due to the pandemic. Although they are hoping this year’s events will happen, volunteers are happy and confident for the Farm Progress Show.
Through their community work, Holy Cross Lutheran has been able to purchase needed items for the church, including a snow blower.
The Farm Progress Show site has grown through the years adding permanent buildings and more gated show space. The volunteers have been added to help the progression.
Carter communicates with Farm Progress Show organizers throughout the year leading up to the event. “Especially at the first of March,” Carter said. “That’s when I have to really get going, because I’ve been recruiting all this time.”
Volunteers are prepared as soon as they start the day. Their bags are filled with volunteers’ information and needed supplies, including sunscreen. With the pandemic still a concern, Carter does what she can to make sure they are safe. “I distribute it and already have it in there,” she said about the supplies. “I’m the only one (who touches the items).”
The Passion Community Church volunteers are new to this year’s Farm Progress Show. The congregation has been taking advantage of opportunities to grow the church, according to Pastor Shane Davis. In November, the church purchased Camp Warren in Mount Zion.
“We own 63 acres now,” Davis said about the Mount Zion area grounds. “It truly is a COVID miracle.”
With so much land to work with, the congregation communicates with farmers who are members of the church.
The future for Passion Community Church includes a pumpkin patch and a corn maze open for the public’s entertainment. “We’re looking at avenues to continue to get into the community, and the Farm Progress Show is one of them,” Davis said. “Obviously you can make some money; anything that we can make right now will help our campus.”
The Passion Community Church volunteers will offer their help in various Farm Progress Show activities. “I think we will be selling tickets at one of the gates,” Davis said.
The opportunity to work at the event allows the congregation time to fellowship with others in the community as well as at the church. “It’s a great outreach for Decatur,” Davis said. “Anything we can do to get out there and be amongst people, that’s what we want to be a part of.”
Roxann Blankenship, president of the St. Patrick Catholic School board, has been organizing volunteers for the Farm Progress Show and other events for six years. “We park cars along with the horseback riders,” she said about their work at the show. “We put them in rows and then the horseback riders tell us if our rows are straight.”
St. Patrick volunteers are paid per person, per shift, according to Blankenship. The adults provide the work while the children are in school. The parents are obligated to provide 20 hours of volunteer work during the school year. The Farm Progress Show is a quick volunteer opportunity for the parents.
St. Patrick was able to find fundraisers throughout the past year, including selling candy bars, assisting during bingo games, and parking cars at the Macon County Fair.
According to Blankenship, the volunteers are preparing for another year of volunteer opportunities, especially the Farm Progress Show.
“We’re looking forward to a great turnout,” she said. “And just to have a successful school year.”
A look back at Farm Progress through the years
History Corner: A Look Back
History Corner: A Look Back
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FARM PROGRESS 7
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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR