Kentucky State Fair Should Recognize Our State’s Writers and Poets – Winchester Sun



By Bill McCann

It’s fall, not summer. But in a state that has produced Grammy-winning songwriters, Oscar- and Emmy-winning screenwriters, award-winning playwrights Obie and Tony, Pulitzer-winning writers, playwrights and journalists, National Book Award winners … why one of the big summer events – the Kentucky State Fair – failing to recognize the best poets, playwrights, journalists, historians, novelists, short story writers and other creative and non-fictional writers in our state?

I love that the Kentucky Arts Council has established a Poet Laureate Recognition Program, sponsored a Poetry Out Loud program for students, and recognized the best professional poets and writers in our state with the Al Smith Fellowship Awards. .

It’s nice that the Kentucky Humanities Council is sponsoring the Kentucky Chautauqua program and having a weeklong book fair that gives published writers and book enthusiasts across the state the chance to mingle, mingle and mingle. appreciate.

It’s great that we have the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Carnegie Center (Lexington) and the Kentucky Motion Picture & Television Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Lancaster Grand Theater to recognize successes that are or have lived among us.

But where is the support and encouragement for those who are not professionals, for those who may have written only one short story, or even a four-line poem and one stanza, who need some help? be encouraged to write a second poem or a seventeenth unpublished short? story?

Yes, I understand that the Kentucky State Fair is primarily intended to show the agricultural traditions, crops and animals of the state for the purpose of appreciating and encouraging our farmers, this generation and the next. But it already goes well beyond the simple highlighting of the agricultural successes of our state: there are concerts, an equestrian show, and a mid-term of shows, supplies and rides; there is a talent show, mock trials, and cooking and rooster crowing competitions; there are exhibits of photographs, antiques, quilts, honey, baked goods, wine and beer, aquariums full of fish and sculptures; There are sheepdog trials and, of course, exhibits highlighting every county in the state. It’s impossible to try to list everything there is to do and see at a Kentucky State Fair.

So why not include the literary arts? Why not do a poetry reading? Why not an open mic evening where everyone can read their creative works. Wendell Berry or Frank X Walker, Crystal Wilkinson or Sena Jeter Naslund could be convinced to be masters of ceremonies.

Yes, the Fair is not an ideal place for such events. Being heard in the south wing’s “plane hanger” is impossible without a microphone, and difficult with one. The acoustics are terrible. But the reason for such events is recognition and encouragement, not the award of a publishing contract.

It is an idea that will likely meet resistance. When I proposed that the Kentucky Arts Council support efforts to have play readings at the fair, the judges actually burst out laughing at the idea! The project was not funded. But the University of Kentucky’s drama department provided initial support. The Kentucky Playwrights Workshop later picked up the effort and for another six years (2014-2019) Kentucky playwrights presented new 10-minute plays at the Fair; a total of 37 new works were read at the Fair.

The idea of ​​literary arts being included in the Kentucky State Fair will not have to be hatched out of thin air, as the Kenton County Fair and Horse Show already recognizes and rewards ribbons and awards in the creative writing categories of poetry, non-fiction, fiction, inspiration and personal story in a variety of age groups for children and adults. A little recognition, a little praise can go a long way in encouraging writers of all ages to work on developing their art. Perhaps a few English majors will be among the winners.

Finally, if there are too many issues associated with producing another event at the Fair, perhaps the winning writings could be posted in local state libraries or posted online. After all, the idea is to encourage students and amateur writers in our state so that Kentucky continues to develop and inspire award-winning and published future poets, playwrights, novelists, and writers.

Interested in making this happen? The best thing you can do is probably write to those who can do it: Kentucky Arts Council at [email protected], the Kentucky State Fair Board at or local lawmakers, Senator Alvarado at [email protected] or Dotson Representative at [email protected] Write now so local writers can get their talents recognized, maybe as early as August 2022.


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