The results are in and the finalists announced for the 2018 Youth Literary Derby.
The province-wide juried, horse-themed writing contest designed to encourage writing and literacy skills of Ontario students grades 5 to 8, reached into the classrooms of schools, Standardbred breeding farms and mainstream media, and attracted submissions from 46 towns, cities, villages and the Amish community.
Poetry Derby Finalists:
Maria Achilleos, St. John French Immersion School, London, Ontario
Kyla Civiero, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Carlisle, Ontario
Marilyn Schmidt, Amish Parochial School, Elmwood, Ontario
Essay Derby Finalists:
Avery Kirkpatrick, St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School, Bowmanville, Ontario
Andrew Kuepfer, Amish Parochial School, Elmwood, Ontario
Allie Kucman, Peace Bridge Public School, Fort Erie, Ontario
The winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd) of the Youth Literary Derby’s poetry and essay categories will be announced and the recipients honoured in a special ceremony at Woodbine Mohawk Park on October 6.
The scope of the Youth Literary Derby was huge. It swept across the Ontario landscape from Blind River and Manotick to Bright’s Grove, Sudbury, Dobbinton, St. Catharines and beyond, reaching out to horse-loving kids with a literary flair who competed for $2,000 in prizes donated by St. Catharines horseman and construction magnate, Tom Rankin, sponsor of the competition.
“The contest is great for education in terms of encouraging literacy and the arts,” Rankin states. “Giving kids the chance to be creative and who knows, there might be a budding poet or writer.”
As for the harness racing industry, Rankin thinks the Youth Literary Derby is an ideal way for introducing the sport to a wider audience.
The winners will also receive free donated tuition for youth courses from Equine Guelph (Ontario Veterinary College) for Horse Behaviour and Safety. The Ontario Veterinary College is one of North America’s foremost leaders in equine research and equine education.
The Youth Literary Derby offered categories for both poems and essays, with prizes divided among the top three finishers in each category. The same amounts are donated to the entrant’s school, or library if the student is home schooled.
The Youth Literary Derby challenged students’ abilities to capture in prose or verse their impressions and perceptions of their up-close encounters with some of the 1,400 young Standardbred foals born in Ontario in 2018. Twenty Ontario Standardbred breeding farms opened their gates wide during the foaling season in April, May and June, welcoming these aspiring young wordsmiths into the world of nature and beyond the hi-tech world of computers.
The Youth Literary Derby concept was introduced into the education curriculum of some classrooms. It attracted entries from French Immersion schools and gained wide acceptance in the Amish community.
The principals at many schools spoke in favour of the Youth Literary Derby and invited horsemen to speak about the program at their literary fairs. School boards contacted were unanimous in their support of the program, stating their appreciation for the community spirit generated by the program, and happily distributed Derby promotional literature to the schools in their jurisdictions. Libraries, too, requested promotional posters to distribute to their branches to publicize the event.
The mayors of St. Catharines, Mississauga and Caledon, Ontario weighed on the value of the Youth Literary Derby, issuing strong support and endorsement of the program.
The Youth Literary Derby attracted mainstream media coverage with front-page coverage in daily newspapers, and extensive exposure in major industry websites, along with talk radio, community television and wide-ranging social media.
The program attained international recognition when the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, the United States Harness Writers Association and Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania penned their praise and support of the program. “The Harness Horse Breeders Association of New York State are so impressed with the idea they are looking to implement a similar program”, said Betty Holt, executive director of Harness Horse Breeders of New York State.
Overall Derby statistics showed 30 per cent of submissions were poems, with 70 per cent essays. Interestingly, 63 per cent of the total submissions were penned by girls and 45 per cent of those who submitted entries heard of the Derby from their schools and their teachers. Twelve per cent of students learned of the program from their libraries.
Key partners in the support and promotion of the Derby include Equine Guelph (Ontario Veterinary College), Mississauga Arts Council, Standardbred Canada, Ontario Equestrian Federation, Standardbred Breeders of Ontario, Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and Woodbine. The Youth Literary Derby was organized and implemented by a team of ten dedicated industry volunteers.