Thursday, September 30, 2010

Agriculture Program Helps Students Pour into the WEG

The Kentucky Horse Park - Come any morning to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and you'll see them: school children by the thousands storming the Horse Park with the elation of being on a field trip and attending an event some have heard about for most of their lives.

Billy Frey, who usually serves in his role as Alltech's head of public relations for North America, spends his mornings at the Games as a ringmaster of a circus that Wednesday saw more than 5,000 students and 57 school buses from Fayette County alone unload at the sprawling park.

Dealing with the flood of children – 52,000 K-12 throughout the course of the Games – maybe seem enough to handle. But Frey said the idea to have children attend with their classes didn't come about until two weeks ago, so planning has been fast paced.

"The idea came from (Alltech Founder and CEO Dr. Pearse) Lyons on a Wednesday about 10 days before the Games. By Friday we had a meeting set up (for) the next Monday with Stu Silberman," Frey said.
At that Monday morning meeting, Schools Supt. Silberman had with the help of Lexington Catholic President Steve Angelucci brought together a total of nine superintendents to get the program running.

"In a project like this you have to go to people that can really help you spread the word," Frey said. "I had to give them a deadline of Tuesday at 5 and then they got me the (number of) tickets (needed)."

According to Frey, Lyons approached partners in the agriculture industry to purchase event tickets for students ages 12 and older while those younger than 12 already are admitted to the park with a free grounds pass.

"There is so much to see here for a kid 12 or younger," Frey said. Many middle schoolers and high school students have been given tickets to events going on throughout the day. "There's only limited funds to go around so we wanted to make sure that we could let in as many as possible."

To get the students into the event, "Dr. Lyons went out to a lot of our partners and said there is a real gap today between the farm and the people's dinner table, and as an industry we've done a terrible job at bridging that gap. We've got a great story to tell and everybody's going to listen, but the reality is you have to be some salesmen and have some marketing there," said Frey who believes the World Equestrian Games is a perfect setting for relating the story.

One method of impressing upon students the affect agriculture has on their lives involves a standard ploy for getting kids' attention: ice cream. Not just any ice cream but Dippin' Dots, the creation of an Alltech scientist using a process similar to one used by the company.

Fayette and Madison County Schools make up the bulk of tickets claimed with Fayette sending 17,000 students and Madison utilizing 14,500. But that's only 60 percent of the overall tickets claimed as students from all of the counties surrounding Fayette, as well as Jackson, Bell, McCreary and Pendleton Counties also are attending.

"In a project like this when you throw it together so quickly, there's a lot of room for things to go wrong. Our No. 1 priority is the student's safety. We want to make sure they get in here and make sure they are safe when they are in here, but No. 2 we want them to learn something. Whether it is about a horse, about a shark, about an alligator, about agriculture, whatever," Frey said.

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