November 21, 2018
From the very date of its birth and announcement to the media on April 3, 2018, the Youth Literary Derby captured the imagination and strong support of the Ontario harness racing community and the provincial school system as it swept across the Ontario landscape and into eastern U.S. states.
Media headlines captured its momentum week after week. “There’s a Hot New Derby in Town”, “Rankin backs the Derby”, “ Standardbreds in the Classroom”, “Mississauga Arts Council Backs the Derby”, “Equine Guelph Donates Free Tuition to Derby Finalists”, “John Campbell Weighs in on the Youth Literary Derby”, “Hall of Fame Honours the Derby”, Literary Derby Goes International”, Ontario Mayors Support the Youth Literary Derby, and the parade of headlines rolled on.
The Mission statement of the youth Literary Derby was simple: To encourage today’s youth to develop an appreciation and love for the Standardbred horse and to express the impressions of their encounters with these noble, intelligent animals in prose and verse. Although simple – yet profoundly important – the Youth Literary Derby concept quickly became reality, as submissions for its poetry and essay categories came streaming from 46 Ontario communities, including the Amish community.
Ontario schools and libraries displayed promotional posters produced by Mississauga Arts Council, school teachers encouraged their students grades 5-8 to participate, and 20 Ontario Standardbred nurseries opened their gates and welcomed young horse-loving wordsmiths to view the magic of equine birth during the foaling season.
The entire program, a gargantuan task, was implemented by a small, independent, non-profit group of industry volunteers dedicated to promoting the Standardbred horse. The endeavour was sponsored by St. Catharines horseman and construction magnate Tom Rankin.
The program was backed and supported by a group of enthusiastic partners, including: Woodbine Entertainment, Equine Guelph, Mississauga Arts Council (MAC), Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA), United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA, Canadian chapter), Standardbred Breeders Association of Ontario (SBOA), Mississauga Writers Group, Ontario Equestrian Federation, the Canadian Horse Racing Hall Fame and Standardbred Canada.
Without question, the 2018 Youth Literary Derby exhibited that its pioneering effort was effective in promoting the Standardbred horse among youth while honing their considerable literary talents.