The Florida Loquat Festival is a celebration of the loquat in all forms, from cultivar to fruit, set in the neighborhood open space of Frances Park. But unlike most such community celebrations, the Florida Loquat Festival includes a literary component.
This year’s Loquat Literary Festival, which I first posted about here, included a poetry contest with cash prizes. Two of the judges, Ryan Cheng and Annalise Mabe, met my travel companion, the third-prize winner, and me at the festival for a photo op and some poetry chat, and then the reading began, with a song and some enjoyable verse tributes to the loquat from community members. Ryan read the winning poem, by Jan Ball, and introduced first my new acquaintance (who may prefer me not to mention her name) the third-place contestant, who read her poem, and then me, who read mine.
The whole occasion was relaxed. Though unorthodox, the poetry reading seemed a natural and perfect ending to the loquat celebration. Everyone was friendly and congratulatory, and the weather, in accord with the pathetic fallacy, was sunny and pleasantly warm. Thanks to everyone who made it possible, especially Annalise, Ryan, and Dell De Chant. Special thanks to Dell for getting us t-shirts, last year’s Leaves of Loquat chapbook, and a little extra money in light of how far we’d traveled.
I look forward to the release of this year’s chapbook, so I can see the poems that weren’t read and peruse the winning poems at more leisure. Maybe I will also be able to return to New Port Richey for the occasion. But even if I can’t, I will at least have fond memories of this welcoming, friendly community.
Photo credit: Oldie~commonswiki, Eriobotrya japonica. Wikimedia Commons. GDSL 1.2 or later.