Mayor Jim Newberry traded his gray suit jacket for a blue corduroy one Tuesday during the Kentucky Future Farmers of America state convention at Rupp Arena.
Newberry, a former FFA region and chapter president, welcomed students to the 80th annual state convention, the first in Lexington in decades.
It traditionally has been held in Louisville but has outgrown its old home at the Galt House, said Celeste Laurent, a public relations intern for the association.
The group expects more than 2,500 members to attend the convention, which lasts until Thursday and is expected to continue to be held in Lexington for at least three more years.
Never miss a local story.
Formed nearly 80 years ago, the group was designed as "a club for boys to go back and be farmers" when they graduated high school, Laurent said.
Now, Laurent said, 99 percent of FFA students will enter other fields, as varied as waste management, public service and genetic engineering.
"Everything really connects back to food and fiber," Laurent said.
Among Tuesday's activities for the students were presentations of the Dodge Hometown Scholarships for exemplary chapter service, said Jamie Erickson, whose firm, Erickson-USA, works with Dodge dealerships, including Lexington's Freedom Dodge Chrysler Jeep, to organize the funding.
Just as the chapters received money, so did many Lexington businesses benefit from the thousands of teens in town.
"When students come here, they bring a lot of dollars to spend," said Robert Quick, president and chief executive of Commerce Lexington.
Tony Atwood, manager of deSha's, said the restaurant's business nearly always booms when conventions are in town.
"We have some (FFA) people in here eating lunch as we speak," he said.