Chase Bruner wasn't immune to the pull of the hypnotist charged with entertaining attendees of the 80th annual Montana FFA State Convention Thursday, even though he didn't volunteer to go up on stage.
Almost immediately, the 15-year-old from Ryegate, seated at the back of Montana State University's Shroyer Gym, fell into a deep sleep, his head slumped between his legs.
Though most of the audience's attention was focused on the stage, where 22 young volunteers were following the commands of the hypnotist, Bruner drew his own small crowd of onlookers.
He alternately stood, danced, shook off an imaginary snake and mimed spreading sunscreen on his face as the hypnotist told participants to imagine their ideal spring break vacation.
He didn't make it through the whole show, but Bruner said he was definitely hypnotized.
"I remember feeling really hot and then something was crawling up my leg," he said. "I sort of believed in it before, but I wanted to see it done."
The act was a welcome entertainment break in a day jam-packed with activities, including workshops on mechanics, dance, extemporaneous speaking and agricultural sales, said Karissa Floerchinger, secretary for the state foundation.
FFA, previously known as Future Farmers of America, is a national student leadership and agricultural-education group. The state convention is the group's premier yearly event, Floerchinger said.
Almost 1,500 high school students in matching blue coats descended on Bozeman Wednesday for the convention, which continues through Saturday. In keeping with this year's theme, "Empower Your Actions," Thursday was a "Day of Service," in which members volunteered with several local community-service organizations.
"It's just about members getting out in the community and giving back," 19-year-old Floerchinger, a student at MSU, said. "The main goal of FFA is to build young leaders into the future leaders of tomorrow, get people involved, give them advice and help them set goals."
Flint Rasmussen, the 2002 World Champion rodeo barrelman, gave the keynote address Wednesday evening, and remarks from U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg were presented.
Scholarships and awards will also be presented over the course of the convention.
Jared Long, an FFA advisor from Lewistown, said attendees traveled from every corner of the state for the convention, which is alternately held in Bozeman, Great Falls and Billings. Not all of the students are from an agricultural background, he said; the group also focuses on skills like mechanics, marketing and communications.
"It gives kids a sense of belonging and leadership," he said. It makes students come out of their comfort zone, try something new that affects more than just you."
Lauren Russell can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2635.