Peach County student wins sixth-grade Fair Bear writing competition

awoolen@macon.comMay 15, 2013 

FORT VALLEY -- Jessica Ortega wanted to win.

A third-place finisher last year, the sixth-grader at Fort Valley Middle School was determined to finish first at the 2013 Georgia National Fair’s Fair Bear Writing Contest.

She did just that.

Ortega won $100 for being the first-place sixth-grade winner of the theme “Fair Bear finds magic at the fair.”

“I was trying to be different,” the straight-A student said about her story. In it, magic isn’t found in a wand or a magic hat, but instead by happiness.

Ortega is in a gifted English class with teacher Michael Lucas.

“She’s a star student in my opinion,” Lucas said.

At the beginning of the year, Ortega told Lucas she wanted to win. Her determination made it happen. She is a self-proclaimed bookworm, and her favorite author is Andrew Clements.

According to Sandy Kusuda, director of Georgia Living at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, this is the first time in recent memory a Peach County student has been a state finalist. She goes on to compete against the fourth- and fifth-grade contest winners.

Former teachers judge the competition, and Kusuda said they were pleased with this year’s entries.

“One of the judges said the stories were much better this year,” Kusuda said.

The contest starts in July when the rules and theme are announced. Students are judged at the school level, the system level and then finally are judged by content, language, creativity, sentence formation and style.

With her first-place finish, Ortega is eligible for the grand prize.

Both the grand prize winner and the winner’s school receive $250. The winner will be announced at the fair Oct. 5 at 12:30 p.m.

The Fair Bear contest began as a memorial to a bear seen in the area in the early 1990s. The bear, killed by a vehicle on Interstate 75, was stuffed and now greets visitors to the administrative buildings at the fairgrounds, according to the website.

To read Ortega’s story, visit

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