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Family Storytelling Festivals

Compiled By Dr. Flora Joy

Where can families find mesmerizing performances of personal stories, madcap humor and spontaneity, intricately-woven “credible” tall tales, musical fables transformed to rhyme, spellbinding literary re-craftings of the classics, true-to-life ghost stories and an array of countless folk and fairy tales? 

Consider attending one of this summer’s many Family Storytelling Festivals. These invigorating and interactive events spotlight the talents of some of the country’s best storytellers, each of whom infuses a unique style of performance into a variety of storytelling genres. A good storyteller is, at once, an actor, a painter and a musician. Watching a single storyteller on stage, with minimal props and no Hollywood special effects team, transform the venue and transport the audience is an experience families should not miss.

But wait, there’s more! The opportunities for learning and exploration rarely end when the festival does. Often the performances prompt lively family discussion of story content and serve as a catalyst for “remembering” family events or experiences that may contain essential material for stories, ultimately become fodder for a child’s own creative storytelling. Story content at the festivals should prompt a visit to the library to explore the 398.2 section (folktales and fairy tales) that might be learned by young listeners and retold at future family gatherings.

One of the largest and best-known storytelling festivals is held during the first full weekend in October each year in Jonesborough, Tennessee. At this NSF (National Storytelling Festival) all storytelling sessions are held in large tents that seat 2-3,000 listeners. When tellers are presenting simultaneously, one tent is always designated as “the family tent” to communicate that the content will be “safe” for young ears.

Countless additional regional and state festivals are held across the United States throughout the year. Below is a sampling of these events that include sessions for “families.”

The festivals listed below are in chronological order.

The Kansas Storytelling Festival
April 28-29, 2006 (Downs, Kansas)

On the last weekend in April entire families come for two fun-filled days of entertainment. Professional storytellers delight audiences with everything from tall tales, folk tales, and yarn spinning to dramatic characterizations. Good fun for listeners of all ages.

Contact: Sherry Knouf, sjknouf@nckcn.com

Children’s Bookfest
April 30, 2006
(Ft. Lauderdale, Florida)

This bookfest features Japanese Storyteller Kuniko Yamamoto and Children’s Bilingual Author, Songwriter and Recording Artist Jose-Luis Orozco.

Contact: Katie Mullen, kmullon@browardlibrary.org

St. Louis Storytelling Festival
May 3–6, 2006 (St. Louis, Missouri)

This free four-day festival for all ages features 60+ storytellers in a variety of venues throughout the St. Louis area. Special events include deaf storytelling, an evening of family storytelling, and a final concert on Saturday evening.

Contact: Ann Larsen, troutenan@umsl.edu, www.umsl.edu/storytelling

Tribeca Family Fun Day (Part of the Tribeca Film Festival)
May 6, 2006 (Lower Manhattan in New York City)

After 9/11, the neighborhoods around the Trade Center sight were devastated emotionally and economically. Even months after the attack, no one wanted to venture down there, other than people going to look at the site itself. One of the neighborhoods, Tibeca, has many interesting people living and/or owning businesses in it, including Robert DiNero. He and others began a endeavor that resulted in the Tribeca Family Fun Day, which is an all day street fair that includes entertainment of all kinds, educational booths, food booths from the local restaurants, and premiers of family oriented films. Since 2002, this has been yearly event in the area directly north of the World Trade Center, helping in the revitalization of the neighborhood. Storytelling, coordinated by Bill Gordh, has been part of the festival from its inception. This year’s tellers include Gerry Fierst, Bill Gordh, Joy Kelly, Jonathan Kruk, Regina Ress, and Ron Sopyla.

Contact: Bill Gordh, bgordh@nyc.rr.com

Gamble Rogers Folk Festival
May 5-7, 2006
(St Augustine, Florida)

Contact: Paul Linser, PLinser@aol.com
For all Family Storytelling Festivals in Florida, contact: Carrie Sue Ayvar, Storyteller/Cuentista, Cayvar@aol.com

Art of Storytelling Family Festival
May 18-20. 2006 (
Miami, Florida)

This year’s festival, celebrating Brazil, will feature internationally recognized storytellers Ashley Bryan, Antonio Rocha, Joan Osborn and many more. All sessions are free to the public.

Contact: Pat Faison, faisonp@mdpls.org

Florida Folk Festival
May 26-28, 2006 (White Springs, Florida)

Contact: Barbara Roberts, barbara.roberts@dep.state.fl.us

The Smoky Hill River Festival
June 9-10, 2006 (Salina, Kansas)

Storytelling is a portion of this festival that has featured Don Davis, Milbre Burch, Eth-noh-tec, Odds Bodkin, Len Cabral, Olga Loya, Antonio Sacre, and others. Through an art form reflecting the spectrum of human experience from tales of ancient worlds to the foibles and fabric of our daily existence, festival storytellers reveal the everlasting power of the human voice to teach, enthrall and enchant—and it’s a whole lot of fun, too!

Contact: Sharon Benson, sharon.benson@salina.org

New Jersey Storytelling Festival
June 25, 2006 (Hamilton, New Jersey)

Storytelling is the first—and maybe still the best—mass medium. Cave dwellers used stories to honor the spirits of the animals they killed so there would always be more prey. The Odyssey and The Iliad were first told around fires, and their original teller, Homer, was blind and probably illiterate. The ghost stories you read as a child under the covers with a flashlight are ten times scarier when told around a campfire. This is the power of story that we will celebrate on this festive occasion. And while the fire will be purely symbolic, the warmth will be palpable. At the Festival “campfire,” participants will hear traditional tales, personal tales and historical tales—stories that tickle the funny bone, tug at the heartstrings, raise the hairs on your neck, and make you clap and sing. So come and celebrate the most ancient of folk arts in one of New Jersey’s most exquisite settings. Following its enthusiastic reception in 2005, the Annual New Jersey Storytelling Festival, now in its 14th year, returns to the Grounds for Sculpture, located at 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, New Jersey, on Sunday, June25, 2006. The event will be held rain or shine; cost of admission to the Park is $12. The stories begin at 11 am and continue to 4:30 pm, including a “lightning round” in which participating tellers and members of the audience will swap three-minute stories. A storytelling concert for adults will take place from 6to 8 pm. More than 40 tellers from all over the state will present stories to entertain, enlighten and inspire both adults and children.

Contact: Ellen Musikant, 973-868-8556, http://www.njstorynet.org

Michigan Storytellers’ Festival
July 7-8, 2006 (Flint, Michigan)

This festival includes free storytelling for families, allowing attendees to enjoy storytelling by Dianne Ferlatte, Jim May, and Dovie Thomason Sickles, with music by California’s Suzanne and Jim. A full schedule includes performances, workshops and story swaps for all ages. One well-attended highlight is the Michigan Showcase with a selection of Michigan’s vast storytelling talent. Evening concerts will be signed for the hearing impaired.

Contact: Brenda Harris, bharris@fpl.info

The Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival
September 8-9, 2006 (Chillicothe, Ohio)

The festival has brought in nationally known storytellers such as Elizabeth Ellis, Carmen Deedy, Bill Harley and local well-known tellers Lyn Ford and Jim Flanagan. The festival is the weekend after Labor Day. On Friday morning, the tellers perform for local school children—2700 to date. Grants are written to allow the student in admission free. During the afternoon on Saturday, a story swap is held. New this year will be grants offered to inner city high school and city art high school.

Contact: www.southernohiostoryfest.com

Alabama Storytelling Festival
October 13-14, 2006 (Selma, Alabama)

Step into the magical world of storytelling at the 28th annual storytelling festival in Selma, Alabama! It’s a rip roarin’, gut bustin’ good time filled with stories and music. The informal swappin’ grounds welcome people to share their own tales. Y’all come! The featured tellers for 2006 are Kathryn Windham, Pat Mendoza, and Gayle Ross.

Contact: Edie Jones, ediemj@bellsouth.net, http://taletellin.selmaalabama.com

Talk Story Festival
October 13-15, 2006 (Honolulu, Hawaii)

The largest and oldest storytelling celebration in Hawaii features the tellers and tales of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim. Each of three FREE nights, from 7 to 9:30pm, eight tellers take 20 minutes telling tales to a theme. Friday 10/13 SPOOOKY TALES. Saturday 10/14 EPIC & LEGENDS. Sunday 10/15 Musical & Participation Tells. Families and the public are all welcome. Workshops Saturday and Sunday afternoons FREE as well.

Contact: Jeff Gere, jgere@honolulu.gov

Snake River Storytelling Festival
October 19-21, 2006 (Rexburg and Idaho Falls, Idaho)

Picture this: The air teases with the subtle chill of an oncoming fall. Colorful leaves drift slowly to grace the ground. The delighted squeals of school children accent the afternoon. The pungent aroma of burning fields hovers in the autumn sky. Life is slowing down. Folks linger on front porches, visiting with neighbors. Stories skip from ear to ear as neighborhoods reconnect. Can you think of a better time than this for a storytelling festival? Autumn, the time of the harvest, the season of gathering.

In the not so distant past, folks gathered to put up crops, quilt bedding, build barns, and chat long into the night by a blazing fire. Tables laden with the bounties of the season would bow in the middle, groaning with anticipation, waiting for the celebrations to begin. Storytelling was always a part of such times. Trappers, early settlers, the old folks, even the town comic would all find a place of honor near the tables and begin to weave their tales. The news would spread from home to home and lane to lane, and the celebration would begin. Folks would trade necessities, arts and crafts, jokes, laughter and tears. Yet those days are gone, some say. We say they need not be gone, and they should never be forgotten!

Whether you are a child or a parent, a student or a teacher, young or old, storyteller or listener, surrounded by family or walking the path on your own -- storytelling is for you! Travel back with us to a more tranquil place and time. You may just find time stands still for you as you are swept away on a magical journey of story. The Snake River Storytelling Festival features the best of storytellers & folk musicians from the West sharing the stories of the World. School Assemblies, Evening Shows, Workshops - we’ve got it all! Come enjoy an eastern Idaho autumn with us. The Snake River Storytelling Festival is 100% family-friendly!

Contact: Teresa B. Clark, tclark@mstar2.net

South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute Spring Storytelling Festival
March 29 and 30, 2007 (Phoenix, Arizona)

This festival is FREE and open to the public. Attendees are often school children (with their teachers), college classes, and members of the community. Friday evening showcases a two-hour concert presented by our featured teller who will sometimes present a workshop.

Contact: LynnAnn Wojciechowicz, lynnann.woj@smcmail.maricopa.edu

 

Some Family Storytelling Festivals in California are:

Bay Area Storytelling Festival
3rd weekend in May

Contact: Gay Ducey, mducey@earthlink.net, www.bayareastorytelling.org

Sierra Storytelling Festival
Third weekend of July

Contact: Steven Henegar, shenegar@earthlink.net

Storytelling Festival by the Sea
First weekend of September

Contact: Dan and Penny O’Gara,707- 677-3840

Village of Tales
Ojai, California

Contact: Brian Bemel, bbemel@sbcglobal.net


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