It’s like this; once upon a time the annual National FFA gangbang was one of KC’;s most prized possessions…
From it’s inception, each October for 70 years, thousands of blue-jacketed farm kids clod-hopped their way here, dropping tons of dough while behaving well. They were colorful, plentiful, magical even. That is, until 1998 when Louisville stole ’em – walked off with our tourism crown jewel – and they’ve been gone ever since.
KC politicos vowed to get ’em back, but nearly a generation has passed since the 37,000-strong blue-jacketed farm kids last roamed the Plaza and Downtown.
Just the sight of ’em – let alone the economic impact – was as much a rite of fall here as Halloween or Thanksgiving.
Early on they went by Future Farmers of America. Later it was modernized and reduced to FFA.
So pissed was UMB banker R. Crosby Kemper Jr. when we lost the FFA, he hatched a plan to screw them over by starting his own kid farmer not-for-profit. Kemper called it the Agriculture Future of America or the AFA. But instead of flooding KC’s streets with bright blue jackets, Kemper opted for earth-friendly green.
Just one problem, things never really panned out..
After bumping into the FFA and AFA last week in Houston, I decided to check em both out. How were the competing organizations faring and was the AFA even still alive?
Darned if it wasn’t. Matter of fact, it had just held its annual blowout here the week before.
Anybody see any sign of em – the green jackets – I sure didn’t?
Now let’s cut to the chase; a call to the AFA headquarters here revealed that not several thousand but rather only "several hundred" Green Jackets made it to KC this month. Like 500, versus the 37,000 FFA kids we lost in 1998.
Which has grown into nearly 55,000-strong that gathered last month in Indy.
In other words, the AFA attracted was less than 1 percent of the attendees the FFA brought to Indy.
Now the tale of the tape…
In the AFA’s 2009 tax filing, it took in $1,952,787. Peanuts compared to the FFA’s $12,327,673.
More significantly, the FFA handed out 2,102 scholarships on top of more than 2,000 grants and awards. Compared to the AFA’s 113 scholarships and 159 "internships" (isn’t that where you work for free?).
There was one area that Kemper’s AFA exceeded the FFA and that’s in executive compensation. The FFA’s top dog took down $186,000 and change, compared to AFA honcho K.Russell Weathers $213,464.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. After 70 years, KC lost it’s biggest, all-time convention, vowed to get it back, failed, then out of spite launched a competing organization that draws but a fraction of what the FFA does.
Now remind me why it is that we want to tear down Kemper Arena and blow millions more on some new cow palace? For the freaking American Royal BBQ?
How about we wait until the Royal or city snags a commit from the FFA to return first?