HENNING – Danville resident Kenneth Kuhn, who was born and raised on a farm in Nebraska, is looking forward to checking out the harvesting machinery at this year's Farm Progress Show.
That is, if he can find the time.
Kuhn, along with about 120 others from Emmanuel Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran and Bethel Lutheran churches in Danville and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Hoopeston, expects to be busy flipping hamburgers and sliding hotdogs onto buns in one of the show's numerous food tents.
Although many people staffing the show's exhibit booths are from out of town, most of the folks taking tickets, selling food and picking up garbage hail from in or around Vermilion County.
"We're all looking forward to it. It's an opportunity to work with your friends and to meet new ones," Kuhn said.
About 1,800 to 2,000 area residents are volunteering their time before, during and after the show, said Farm Progress Show volunteer coordinator Jay Stoddard.
- They will handle everything from guiding cars through the parking lot to spreading wood chips for the walkways.
Members of the Cissna Park FFA, for example, spent their afternoons last week assembling 2,500 cardboard garbage cans and lining them with plastic bags.
"The volunteers are truly amazing," said Jeanie Cooke, executive director of the Danville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"I hate to call them volunteers; they are professionals. They understand the importance of what it is they do."
The visitors bureau started recruiting volunteers in January, contacting churches and organizations like local FFA chapters.
Since then, volunteers have attended training and orientation sessions.
Most church groups will staff food tents. Students from Armstrong High School will handle parking lot traffic.
The Cissna Park FFA will also volunteer with cleanup efforts after the show closes Thursday.
Others will help staff exhibit booths.
Husband and wife Nancy and Milton Dalenberg of Georgetown will spend a few hours handing out information about the Illinois Farm Bureau.
"We're excited about it being in our home county," Nancy Dalenberg said.
The volunteer groups do not walk away empty-handed. Volunteers are guaranteed a certain dollar amount for their efforts or 20 percent of the show's gross receipts.
With the money they earn at the Farm Progress Show – about $6,000 – the Cissna Park FFA will be able to send three or four more students to state and national conferences, FFA adviser Ron Lynch said.
"With the money we earn, we'll be able to build a fund for us. The kids will be able to pay less to go on the trips, and we'll be able to take more kids along," he said.
When his group of students visited past Farm Progress Shows, they learned about the newest technology available to farmers by spending time in the exhibit booths, he said.
"But now, my kids are getting a whole new education of what it takes to put a Farm Progress Show together," Lynch said.
As of Saturday, the Cissna Park FFA had volunteered close to 400 hours.
Henning residents Susan and Joe Reed said they won't think of their time volunteering in a food tent as work.
"Chances are, we'll meet a lot of our friends and neighbors we don't get to see often," Joe Reed said.
The Reeds plan to work all three days of the show with fellow members of the United Methodist Church in Potomac.
"We've commented going through this how nice it is to find people so helpful," Stoddard said.
"Last year, we were short-staffed."
In the proposal she prepared for show organizers, Cooke said a volunteer shortage would not be an issue.
And as it happens, "we have more volunteers than they can use," Cooke said.
You can reach Christine des Garennes at (217) 351-5388 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.