BERRYVILLE -- Students of the Berryville chapter of the FFA are inviting all comers to engage in feats of strength, agility, and absurdity to commemorate National FFA Week.
This celebration of all things agricultural has run all week, from Feb. 16 to 23, but has been extended in Berryville to accommodate a smorgasbord of activities that includes egg lobbing, T-post heaving, toilet-seat tossing, three-legged trip-racing, and -- overshadowing everything else -- donkey-riding basketball.
Despite the general nonsense to come, the festivities commenced on a somber note: FFA members and loved ones were scheduled to gather on Thursday, Feb. 21 for the annual degree-awarding ceremony, when students are recognized for their achievements, service, and leadership within the FFA organization. (No word as of press time on a potential rescheduling due to the winter storm.)
Things will be a little less somber this coming Tuesday, when those same students will smear some mud on their cheeks and go on the warpath for the Aggie-Olympics.
Students of all ages will compete in teams of two in various agriculturally themed events. In addition to those already mentioned, there will be tractor-tire flipping, dummy roping, and more. The competition is not just for students, either.
FFA advisor Justin Wagner said the event, which is free and open to the public, usually attracted "quite a crowd" from the wider community.
Wagner said people were welcome to spectate, but he also invited the more adventurous to smear some mud on their own cheeks and join the melee.
A third grader and a high school sophomore won the overall competition last year, Wagner said, but that doesn't mean winning this year will be like taking candy from a kid.
First of all, Wagner didn't mention any candy. Second, there are some pretty tough third graders out there. Third, the winning team lobbed an egg 200 feet to one another without breaking it. That's no cakewalk. It's more like walking on eggs.
The competitions will start at 4:30 p.m. at the Ag Building on the Berryville High campus.
As if toilet-seat tossing weren't enough, things will get even more absurd on Thursday, Feb. 28, when competitors will mount donkeys for a friendly game of donkey basketball.
"It's been a tradition for as long as anyone can remember," Wagner said of the event.
The game will be open to the public, and Wagner said anyone was welcome to form a team and ride a donkey, as long as they were 16 or older. However, he warned would-be competitors to expect little cooperation from their worthy steeds.
"He might start bucking," Wagner said. "He might start kicking. He might just put his head down between his legs and buck you off."
If that doesn't sound appealing, or if watching it sounds boring, don't worry. There will be other diversions -- including something called "musical donkeys."
"It's basically musical chairs," Wagner said, "except you've got to jump up on a donkey and sit down."
This little game is just for the ladies. However, the "ugliest woman" contest is, surprisingly, just for the men.
"We'll have students as well as adult men dressed in dresses, makeup, high-heels, drag," Wagner said. "It is very interesting."
Rounding out the night, there will be a stick horse race for the little ones -- with moon pies for the victors.
FFA Week might make for a good time and a few good laughs, but Wagner said it was more than that. He said it was an opportunity to show people what FFA was all about.
"We want to show the community that we not only have kids that are good FFA members," he said. "We want to show that we're turning out kids who are leaders."
And, I would add to that, "... can play a mean game of donkey basketball."
Thursday's festivities will start at 6 p.m. in the old gymnasium, by the Ag Building. Tickets are $6 in advance or $8 at the door, and children five and under will be admitted at no charge. To purchase tickets, speak with an FFA member or call Wagner at 870-480-4669.
* * *
T.S. Strickland is a reporter at Carroll County News covering education and government in Berryville and Green Forest.