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Poetry slam debuts at Orleans County 4-H Fair

July 30, 2016
Virginia Kropf
This article first appeared in the Batavia Daily News

KNOWLESVILLE - "An important focus of the Orleans County 4-H Fair is showcasing everything in the county - even the non-traditional," said 4-H educator Robert Batt.

One of Wednesday's attractions was certainly not what fairgoers could expect to see at their county fair, but it was an event sponsors hope will gain in popularity.

At 7 p.m. on the center stage, the first ever open mic poetry slam took place, sponsored by the Oak Orchard Review Online Literary Magazine.

Jim Simon, associate dean at Medina and Albion campuses of Genesee Community College, and Karen Jones of Medina introduce the first Open Mic with the Oak Orchard Review Online Literary Magazine Wednesday at the Orleans County 4-H Fair.


The idea was that of Karen Jones of Medina, who with her husband Ric, founded the online literary magazine. After last year's fair, Jones approached Jim Simon, associate dean of Albion and Medina campuses of Genesee Community College and suggested they try to do something at the fair.

Batt said the fair was happy to give them the opportunity.

Jones said "the open mic was an event to draw out the literary talent they know exists in Orleans County, and it was certainly in keeping with the fair's theme of 'It Draws You In.'"

Joyce Chizeck of Lyndonville, art editor for the Oak Orchard Review, said "the open mic puts the focus on literacy and promotes the fiction and nonfiction reading event."

Fran and Peggy Thomas of Middleport are editors of the online magazine, whose purpose Fran said is to draw out more local writers.

Fran's reading was titled "The Porch," and was written while he was sitting on his porch fighting lymphoma, he said.

Sheryl deJonge Loavenbrude read several of her creative writings, one she wrote at a writer's workshop in New Mexico.

Karen Jones' sister, Amy D'Amico of Rochester, read "The 10 Speed," her account of riding her bike near Nesbitt’s pond and Pine hill.

"I used to live around the corner," she said. "I have been writing since high school and love to write about Orleans County, which does draw me in."

D'Amico was just published by the Hawaii Review, she said.

She said the open mic, like the pie eating and greased pole, is another competition at the fair.

"When my sister told me they were going to have a poetry reading, I thought, 'Oh, a greased pole contest for poetry.'"

Jim Simon and Amy D'Amico.


Erika Wanecski of Medina epitomized the goal of the open mic.

She walked under the tent intending to sit and listen, when she was spotted by Simon.

"You are here to read," he asked, extending his pad for her to sign in.

She replied she wasn't, but said she had written a poem about Letchworth Park, but didn't have it with her.

Simon persevered, and soon Wanecski was on stage reciting word for word from memory her poem, "Letchworth Park."

"That was with no notice," Simon told the audience. "That one definitely came from the heart."

It is the hope of all involved with the online literary magazine this event will pick up in popularity, and they definitely want to come back to the fair next year.


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