Around The Town

Franklin FFA honored at state convention:
Members of the Franklin FFA chapter attended the 95th annual Illinois State FFA Convention June 13-15 along with more than 5,000 other FFA members, advisors, and guests. With a 2023 theme of “Electrify,” the three-day event annually recognizes achievements of Illinois FFA members, elects the major state officer team, and celebrates agriculture.

During the convention, the following awards were presented to the Franklin FFA:

Illinois State FFA Degree:
Lainee Ford was conferred with the State FFA Degree by the Illinois Association for meeting all requirements including productive financial investments and earnings in a supervised agricultural experience and FFA participation, leadership, and academic excellence. The State FFA Degree is the highest achievement an FFA member can achieve in Illinois; less than 2% of members statewide earn this prestigious recognition.

American FFA Degree:
Kaylee Ford was recognized for earning the highest degree achievable in the National FFA Organization. The American FFA Degree will be officially conferred at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis in October and recognizes the most dedicated members in the country who demonstrated excellence with their supervised agricultural experience, provided outstanding leadership and community service, and earned scholastic achievement throughout their FFA career.

2023-2024 State FFA President:
Thaddeus Bergschneider was elected Illinois State FFA President on Thursday morning during the convention. Thaddeus was one of ten candidates for a 2023-2024 Major State Officer position with the Illinois Association FFA.

Top 10 Section President:
Thaddeus Bergschneider was recognized as one of ten outstanding section presidents in the state who achieved the highest degree of excellence during their year of service to the chapters in their section and the Illinois Association FFA. The Illinois Farm Bureau Family of Companies Youth Education in Agriculture Committee sponsors the Top 10 section presidents award.

Cooperative Essay Contest:
Thaddeus Bergschneider was recognized for writing one of the top five essays in the country with a $500 cash award, along with a $300 award to his chapter. The contest is intended to encourage students to develop writing skills, learn about current issues impacting agriculture, and understand the unique role of cooperatives. This year’s essay theme was “How can ag cooperatives stay relevant to future generations?” The essay contest celebrated its 30th year and is sponsored by GROWMARK.

Pictured are (L to R) Jason and Aleece Ford, parents; recipient Carson Ford with plaque; and Kaitlyn Kane and Brent Nelson, advisors.

Discovery Star Ag Placement:
Carson Ford was selected as the 2023 State Discovery Star in Agricultural Placement. Carson is the son of Jason and Aleece Ford. He is a member of the Franklin FFA Chapter, advised by Kaitlyn Kane and Brent Nelson. Carson’s SAE is based on the work he is hired to do for Johnson Farms and his family’s business, Ford Mowing. At Johnson Farms, he is hired through harvest and planting seasons to do tillage and run grain carts. He does the majority of the tillage on the farm. Ford Mowing is a business that his family owns that provides the local community with mowing and lawn care services. He mows around six properties in town and other jobs when asked. When he goes to work, he mows, weed eats, sprays for weeds and picks up any debris in the yards.

Pictured are (L to R) Jay and Mary Beth Harris, parents; recipient AJ Harris with plaque; and Kaitlyn Kane and Brent Nelson, advisors.

Discovery Star Farmer:
AJ Harris was selected as the 2023 State Discovery Star Farmer. AJ is the son of Jay and Mary Beth Harris. He is a member of the Franklin FFA Chapter, advised by Kaitlyn Kane and Brent Nelson. His SAE is based on his breeding and market sheep business, as well as his 60-acre rye field. His sheep are bred and raised on his family farm. He has 69 ewes, 7 rams, 78 lambs, and 8 show lambs. His goals and motivation behind this project are to produce high-quality breeding ewes and show lambs. He also artificially inseminates all his own flock and gets hired for his services in the local area. His rye field is a cover crop that he chose and planted himself. The product will then be sold as seed. He hopes to continue growing his projects through high school. Overall, his projects have taught him dedication and the importance of the agriculture industry.

State Winner Extemporaneous Public Speaking Leadership Development Event:
Thaddeus Bergschneider was recognized for winning the state Extemporaneous Public Speaking LDE. Participants are given 30 minutes to deliver a speech on one of three assigned agricultural topics. Students must learn to think on their feet and develop an argument quickly and persuasively.

Students at the convention were greeted with activities including a career fair featuring colleges and agribusinesses and an opportunity to engage in the history of Illinois’ capital city. The sessions featured addresses from National FFA Eastern Region Vice President Gracie Murphy, of Illinois, and from each of the retiring major state officers.

For more information, contact:

Illinois FFA Center | 3221 Northfield Drive | Springfield, IL 62702

217-753-3328 |

Jacksonville, Morgan County history presentation at Morgan County Fairgrounds on July 12:
A brief history of Jacksonville and Morgan County will be the focus of a presentation on Wednesday, July 12, at the 4-H Building on the Morgan County Fairgrounds.

Local historian Greg Olson will give an illustrated program that covers such topics as early settlement, the establishment of state institutions in Jacksonville, transportation, famous local residents and industries.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of Morgan County, and the presenter is a member of the county’s 200th Anniversary Committee.

The program, which is sponsored by the Morgan County Fair Auxiliary, begins at 1:30 p.m.

Community Foundation Welcomes Sarah Tapscott as Vice President of Development:
The Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln is pleased to welcome Sarah Tapscott as vice president of development. Her responsibilities include planning, directing and evaluating the Community Foundation’s fund development activities.

“I am excited to start my journey here at the Community Foundation. I look forward to sharing the vision and mission of this wonderful organization and helping connect people with causes that matter,” Tapscott said.

Tapscott came to the Community Foundation with an extensive background in both the nonprofit sector and philanthropy. Tapscott previously worked at the United Way of Central Illinois as the director of community impact, where she collaborated closely with the Community Foundation on several community-wide initiatives. After leaving United Way, she spent time fundraising at local nonprofits before becoming the director of statewide partnerships at Forefront, the statewide association for nonprofits and grant makers in Illinois. She served as the director of advancement at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School for the past two years.

Tapscott earned a B.A. degree from Illinois State University in Community Health Education and has served on several community and professional boards, including as president of the local Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter. Sarah Tapscott, her husband, Nick, and their two children live in Springfield.

Through philanthropic services, strategic grantmaking and community leadership, the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln “connects people who care with causes that matter.” The Community Foundation serves Cass, Christian, Logan, Macoupin, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan and Sangamon counties.

Scotland Clergy Exchange — Minister from Scotland to lead First Presbyterian Church this summer:
The Rev. Gary Noonan from Killellan Kirk (Church) in Scotland will be preaching this summer at The First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville on July 2, 9 and 16 at 10 a.m. The public is invited to attend and experience a unique worship opportunity, and learn about our Jacksonville connections to other countries, cultures and people.

As part of a summer pulpit exchange, Rev. Jonathan Warren from First Presbyterian Church, will be in Scotland at Noonan’s church during those same Sundays. Rev. Warren will be at Killellan Kirk with his wife, Siobhan, and two daughters, Hannah (14) and Lydia (12), and staying in the Noonan home in Scotland during the exchange. The Rev. Gary and Ruth Noonan and their sons, Robbie (17) and Gregor (11), will stay in the Warren’s home in Jacksonville.

This exchange is part of a larger 13-week summer sabbatical for Warren and the First Presbyterian Church exploring themes of family and heritage. Both churches have special events planned during the exchange.

Jacksonville First Presbyterian Church has a variety of church and community events scheduled, including several guest preachers, such as the chaplain from Monmouth College; a family counselor; and speakers from Marion Medical Mission and Kemmerer Village.

Full information is available at

First Presbyterian Church was among 197 U.S. congregations to receive the 2022 Clergy Renewal Grant. These grants helping congregations honor and support their pastors by funding a respite from ministerial duties and enabling pastors to engage in a period of extended reflection and renewal. Recipients may use the respite for activities that allow them to reflect and renew while engaging in activities such as travel, scholarly research or immersive experiences with different cultures and traditions.

As First Presbyterian Church celebrates 196 years this June, their goal is to usher in renewal. As they experience this renewal, they plan to build up fresh resources to serve God and this community for many more years to come!

Morgan County Fair hosts exciting LEGO contest at The Merchant Building:
The Morgan County Fair is thrilled to announce its first-ever LEGO contest, set to captivate builders of all ages, and unleash their creativity. This exciting event will take place at The Merchant Building during the Morgan County Fair, running from July 11 to July 17, at the fairgrounds in Jacksonville.

The Morgan County Fair LEGO Contest aims to bring together LEGO enthusiasts from the local community and beyond, providing a platform for participants to showcase their imagination and ingenuity. From young builders just starting their LEGO journey to seasoned enthusiasts, everyone is encouraged to take part in this fun competition.

Participants will have the opportunity to create and display their unique LEGO creations at The Merchant Building, competing against fellow builders in various age categories. The contest will be divided into three groups: Group 1 for ages 5-8, Group 2 for ages 9-12 and Group 3 for ages 13-16. Whether it’s an intricate cityscape, an awe-inspiring space station or a whimsical fantasy world, the LEGO contest offers a canvas for imagination to run wild.

“We are excited to introduce the LEGO Contest at The Merchant Building as part of this year’s Morgan County Fair,” said Gary Hadden, president of the Morgan County Fair Board.” We look forward to seeing the incredible creations our participants will bring to The Merchant Building.”

The LEGO Contest at The Merchant Building will be held on two dates: Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15. On Friday, registration will begin at 3 p.m., followed by the LEGO building session at 3:30 p.m. The judging will take place at 4 p.m. On Saturday, registration will start at 1 p.m., LEGO building will commence at 1:30 p.m. and the judging will occur at 2 p.m. Participants can register online in advance at or register on-site at the event.

Participants will receive a LEGO kit where they create their masterpiece on site. Winners will be announced at the end of each competition, with exciting prizes awarded in each age group. Grand prize winner will advance to the Illinois State Fair.

“We are grateful to our sponsors who have generously provided prizes for the LEGO Contest,” added Hadden. “Their support enables us to recognize the talents and efforts of our participants and make this event even more memorable.”

Participation in the LEGO contest is free, offering an inclusive opportunity for builders of all backgrounds to showcase their skills. It’s a chance to connect with fellow LEGO enthusiasts, exchange ideas and celebrate the joy of building.

In addition to the LEGO contest, the Morgan County Fair promises a weeklong extravaganza of family-friendly entertainment, featuring exhilarating rides, live music and delicious food. Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore a wide range of exhibits, livestock shows and agricultural displays, highlighting the rich heritage of the community.

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to witness the incredible LEGO creations at The Merchant Building during the Morgan County Fair. Whether you are a builder or simply a LEGO enthusiast, mark your calendars for July 14 and 15 and be a part of the creativity and fun.

Gate charges for Tuesday to Saturday will be $5 for adults, and children under the age of 6 can enjoy free admission. A season pass is available for those who wish to make the most of the fair’s offerings at a cost of $15. To encourage families to join in the fun, Sunday will be designated as family day with free admission for all.

For more information on the event schedule and line-up, please contact 217-245-6800, visit our official website at, or find us on Facebook under The Morgan County Fair.

State officer team elected at Illinois FFA State Convention:
The 2023-2024 Illinois State Officer Team was elected Thursday, June 15, via in-person voting during the 95th annual Illinois FFA State Convention. The officers were installed immediately following the election and will serve the Illinois Association FFA for the next 12 months.

Pictured (front row, L-R) areRiley Kessler, secretary, andEric Wisely, vice president. Pictured (back row, L-R) are Thaddeus Bergschneider, president; Benjamin Bremmer, treasurer; and Cooper Nelson, reporter.

The newly elected officers are:

  • President: Thaddeus Bergschneider, 18, of Franklin (Morgan County) and the Franklin FFA Chapter. He is the son of Paul and Janie Bergschneider and a 2023 graduate of Franklin High School. “Being a state officer means having opportunities to give hope, encouragement, and purpose to members from all backgrounds and circumstances,” Bergschneider says. “I want be able to help them shape their life, goals and aspirations.”
  • Vice President: Eric Wisely, 19, of Oakdale (Washington County) and the Nashville FFA Chapter. He is the son of Jimmy and Denise Wisely, a 2022 graduate of Nashville Community High School and enrolled at Southern Illinois University Carbondale studying agricultural education. “As a state officer, I want to be real with members and assure them that capable leaders are not flawless people,” Wisely says. “I want to prove to members that inconveniences can be opportunities in disguise and help them reach their full potential.”
  • Reporter: Cooper Nelson, 18, of Canton (Fulton County) and the Canton FFA Chapter. He is the son of Brent and Cassie Nelson and a 2023 graduate of Canton High School. “As a state officer, I look forward to connecting with new people and having a positive impact on them,” Nelson says. “I want to show members that by being passionate about the FFA and working hard, they’ll have a great experience.”
  • Secretary: Riley Kessler, 18, of New Douglas (Madison County) and the Staunton FFA Chapter. She is the daughter of Michael and Lisa Kessler and a 2023 graduate of Staunton High School. “As a state officer, I want to share my love, dedication, and passion for our organization with members,” Kessler says. “In the words of a song I heard at my first state FFA convention, I want to encourage them to ‘elevate a little higher, don’t even hesitate, and just let it escalate.’”
  • Treasurer: Benjamin Bremmer, 18, of Pearl City (Stephenson County) and the Pearl City FFA Chapter. He is the son of Chad and Deborah Bremmer, a 2022 graduate of Pearl City High School and enrolled at Highland Community College studying agriculture business. “For our organization to grow, we need to adapt and change as the world around us progresses,” Bremmer says. “But we also need to preserve our roots to keep us grounded as individuals. As a state officer, I want to help members find their passion in the FFA and grow as leaders and individuals.”

The five officers were elected from a group of 10 candidates selected by a committee in late April. Each officer puts their collegiate pursuits on hold for one year as they serve the Illinois Association FFA. Officers typically travel more than 20,000 miles visiting FFA chapters around the state, conducting workshops and meetings, representing Illinois FFA in professional settings and promoting agricultural education. Since 1929, Illinois has elected a State FFA Officer Team.

The 95th annual Illinois State FFA Convention hosted more than 5,000 FFA members, advisors and guests from June 13-15. With a 2023 theme of “Electrify,” the three-day event annually recognizes achievements of Illinois FFA members, elects the major state officer team and celebrates agriculture.

Students at the convention were greeted with activities including a career fair featuring colleges and agribusinesses and an opportunity to engage in the history of Illinois’ capital city. The sessions featured addresses from National FFA Eastern Region Vice President Gracie Murphy, of Illinois, and from each of the retiring major state officers.

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