Everyone is invited to step into a story during the 18th Annual Storytelling Festival next week. Both local and nationally acclaimed storytellers will perform in 58 free events at 21 different venues in Davis, Morgan and Weber counties.
The festival began in 1996 after community supporters visited the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and suggested it be brought to Weber State University.
This year, four nationally recognized storytellers will perform.
“They’re award-winning,” said festival chair Ann Ellis. “They’re well known around the country. They are superb and great entertainment. We have about 40 Utah storytellers — professional storytellers from the state. They come and tell, plus they have 71 children from local school districts who have been learning to tell stories and have been selected by their district from their school. We’re really recognized around the country for having the most significant storytelling festival.”
Utah storyteller Laurie Allen is an elementary school teacher who has performed at the festival the past 10 years. “I do mostly folk tales and ghost stories,” Allen said. “I do an occasional personal story. I did one personal story for one of my sets this year. It’s about — I’m telling it at a senior center, that’s where I’m doing it at — it’s kind of a car-trip story with my family.”
Allen also performs at the annual storytelling event held at the Clearfield Community Art Center near the end of January.
“It is such a good alternative to all the electronic media that is going on now,” Allen said “It is such a personal thing. It’s just a social connection that helps with cultural things, and imagination. It’s really good for literacy . . . it’s very good family entertainment. It’s not just for kids.”
The festival committee members meet monthly to pick storytellers for the event.
“The originators of the festival really dreamed that this would be a major community activity that could enhance the diversity of culture and creativity of the community around us,” said Chloe Merrill, festival committee member. “They really dreamed of children and adults coming together and just enjoying the magic of well-told stories, and taking home memories that they share together. For the last 18 years, that’s what happened.”
The festival events will kick off Monday at 11:30 a.m. in the McKay Education Building, where Olga Loya will speak on “Learning to Tell Bilingually.”
Three different events will be held on campus on Tuesday, beginning with the Brown Bag Story Slam in the Shepherd Union Building at 12:30 p.m. “Bring your lunch and bring your own story,” Ellis said. “Then the students who want to do that can put their name in to be drawn to read a story. Maybe 10-12 people can put their name into a pot, and maybe seven can tell their stories. There are prizes for that. That’s a lot of fun.”
The Brown Bag Story Slam will be followed by the Story Symposium in the Stewart Library at 2 p.m. A nationally acclaimed professor will speak about Jack tales — stories similar to “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
“Every culture has them, about a clever boy who gets out of trouble,” Ellis said. “He’s going to tell about Jack tales, and he says that they raise the storyteller’s dilemma. That is, are you going to be true to what the tradition has always been, or do you reframe the stories for modern culture? That will have a Q-and-A. The cool thing about that is a bunch of kids from the Ogden School District did some art about that displayed in the library that illustrates the variety of it . . .”
Eth-Noh-Tec, a kinetic story theater company, will perform in the Kimball Visual Arts Building on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
“They are going to do a presentation called ‘Curse of the Tale, Gift of the Story,’” Ellis said. “It is very, very good. They are terrific. They raise storytelling to new heights. It’s an art form for them. It’s just extraordinary . . .”
A full list of events is available at www.weber.edu/storytelling and the WSU Storytelling Festival Facebook page. Complimentary parking will be available at the Dee Events Center, where a free shuttle will take festival-goers to the Stewart Library every 15 minutes.