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Things Go Just "Ducky" for STH FFA Participants

By Anne Waits
web posted March 3, 2014

COUNTY Strom Thurmond Career Center FFAers Austin Hall and Lucky Bailey, both of Johnston, and FFA advisor Jeremy Brooks traveled to Anderson County last weekend for the Third Annual Mr. FFA Scholarship Competition. Hall's pet duck, Drake, accompanied them and became the first ever live animal to appear on stage. (left)

The duck wore his matching coat with official Strom Thurmond High School FFA emblem. A total of 27 contestants from all over South Carolina competed on Friday night for first and second place $500 and $250 scholarships at Pendleton High School where the competition originated. This was in celebration of National FFA Week. The Miss FFA Competition was held earlier in the year, and Morgan Spaulding from Strom Thurmond was third runner-up.

The order of events consisted of Phase One-the parade of contestants; Phase Two-introduction of contestants and judges; Phase Three-FFA Wear and entertainment; Phase Four-a surprise category where Hall wore a Quack Commander cape and Bailey wore a Bailey Bine cape to represent their projects; and Phase Five-official dress, announcement of Top Five, on stage questions, entertainment and crowning.
Below: Lucky Bailey,
Austin Hall, and FFA adviser Jeremy Brooks
Hall's love of ducks almost paid off for him, placing him in the Top Five and winning him the title of Best of Wear. During this part of the competition, Hall appeared on stage in his camouflage outfit with Drake, duck calls and waders. Although he missed out on the top prize, Hall might have gained another prize-a girlfriend. While he was on stage with Drake, a girl placed her phone number in Drake's cage, and she and Hall have been communicating.

"Austin (Hall) has become quite a celebrity out of this," said Brooks. "Everyone has been talking about him and his duck."

Hall began raising ducks as part of his SAE (successful agricultural experience) on Waterfowl Production last year when he ordered 13 baby ducks. Three died in the first few weeks and one died recently. He has nine ducks left, four females and 5 males. During the SAE, Brooks said students lock in so many hours a month and have certain goals to achieve. They have a final project at the end of the year.

Hall said he has liked the outdoors his whole life and enjoys hunting and fishing. He loves watching the hunt channel on TV. When he was about 4, his "Papa" (Bobby Holmes) had ducks and he became fascinated with them then. "I was always wondering if I could ever buy a duck," he said.

Hall has kept pictures of the different stages of his ducks' lives. The females lay eggs, but none have hatched yet.

Now a sophomore, Hall joined the FFA (where he is a sentinel officer) as a freshman. He has been a member of the Thurmond Golf Team since 8th grade and is a member of the American Welding Society. His hobbies include drawing and design and taking care of various pets such as cats, dogs and fish. He works from time to time taking care of horses for Buck Asbill in Johnston. In addition, Hall is quite an entrepreneur. He cuts grass in the summertime, cuts and sells firewood in the wintertime and does woodworking year round. He builds dog houses, bird houses, chairs and stools. He plans to go to Clemson and major in agricultural engineering.

Hall said he will be ready for the competition next year. He plans to train Drake and take him back to the competition.

Bailey's SAE was poultry production. A junior, he works in poultry houses for Derrick Farms in Johnston. The farm has four chicken houses with a total of 120,000 birds, 28,000 per house. During the prop section of the competition, he wore poultry boots and carried a five-gallon can, a stuffed chicken and "picker-uppers." He said he has always liked farm animals and the "great outdoors."

Being in the FFA (since 9th grade) has been a great way to further his plans for the future, he said. He serves as parliamentarian of the organization.

"The FFA better educates me in the "ag" field," he said. "The SAE teaches me many things, but the main thing it has taught me is responsibility,"

Bailey stays busy also. He is involved in football and track, and is a member of the American Welding Society. He also likes hunting and fishing.

He plans to join the Marine Corps when he graduates and to get a bachelor of science degree in agricultural education.

Brooks said the Mr. and Miss Scholarship Competition is a good thing for the students.

"Besides the obvious, a chance to win the scholarship money, it is a real good chance to get out of their comfort zone," he said. "It gives them public speaking experience in large group settings. They gain confidence in themselves."

He added that he thought all the contestants did a really good job. Winners in the Mr. FFA Competition were: Brent Summers, Pelion, Mr. FFA; Hunter Morton, Pendleton, 1st Runner-Up; Jacob Koch, Anderson, 2nd Runner-Up; Austin Lollis, Pendleton, Mr. Greenhand; Seth Williams, Pendleton, 2nd Runner-Up, Mr. Greenhand; Grant Brady, Anderson, Mr. Congeniality; Christopher Lunsford, PCCTC, Top Application; Dakota Murray, Pendleton, Top Interview; Austin Hall, Strom Thurmond, Top FFA Wear; Antoine Hernandez, Pendleton, Top Personal Introduction; William Keasler, Anderson, Top Surprise Category; and Joey McCannon, Pendleton, Top Official Dress.
In other events celebrating National FFA Week, Strom Thurmond FFA won the Regional Tool Identification Contest out of 11 teams competing, held at Strom Thurmond Career Center this past Wednesday.

Also, on Saturday, March 15, from noon to 4 p.m., Strom Thurmond FFA will present in conjunction with Edgefield County Young Farmers the Second Annual Edgefield County Agriculture Day. This is countywide and last year around 1,500 people came. This will be held at Strom Thurmond  High School and will feature an antique tractor show by Palmetto Antique Tractor Club, demonstrations by Clemson University College of Agriculture, demonstrations by Piedmont Technical College Agriculture Program, a silent auction, Edgefield County Agriculture Industry Display, a petting zoo, displays by local vendors, Hit and Miss Engine displays, a Farmer's Market, inflatables for the kids, barbecue, drinks and fun for the entire family. 

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