History of the Festival

The Festival originated in the fall of 1978, when Professor Thomas Gay and Dr. Carol Gay of YSUís Department of English established a memorial fund in memory of their daughter, Candace McIntyre Gay, who died of cancer in 1977 when she was thirteen. Because of their involvement in the teaching of writing and literature and because of their longtime interest in furthering fruitful communication between area schools and the University, they decided to set up awards for area junior and senior high school students to reward distinctive writing based upon careful reading and to present the awards on a special day at the University.

The idea was endorsed by the English Department, and a committee was formed, consisting of the Gays, and Professors James Houck, Janet Knapp, Students sitting in the Chestnut Roomand Gary Salvner, to establish the competition and an awards ceremony. Before long, an entire program of activities was conceived, an advisory board of area educators and community leaders was formed, and an English Festival day was scheduled for the spring of 1979.

The response was so overwhelming that, within three years, the one-day program was expanded to three days. But even in three days, the Festival has not been able to meet the demand of interested students, and each year, many are turned away. At the same time, the Festival has received wide-ranging national attention in a number of ways. A 1982 notice in the English Journal evoked responses from all over the country and Canada. Since then, English Festivals modeled on YSUís have been started in many other states and in the Philippines. Scholarly articles about the YSU English Festival have been published in journals such as Childrenís Literature in Education, The ALAN Review, Focus, the Ohio Journal of the English Language Arts, and the Kentucky English Bulletin.

The Festival has also been discussed in various books about school-college cooperative programs, including School-College Collaborative Programs (ed. Ron Fortune), published by the Modern Language Association in 1986. In addition, Festival Committee members have delivered numerous presentations about the YSU English Festival at state and national conferences. To celebrate the Festivalís twentieth anniversary (1998), the Festival Committee members, with the help of the advisory board, organized a conference entitled ďCha(lle)nges in Young Adult Literature: The First 20 Years Are the Hardest.Ē Participants from all over the world attended to hear nationally prominent panelists and the five featured authors: Sue Ellen Bridgers, Bruce Brooks, Robert Cormier, Chris Crutcher, and M. E. Kerr. In 2004, the English Festival received the prestigious Intellectual Freedom Award from the National Council of Teachers of English for its efforts to encourage a broad range of reading experiences for young people.

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