On Wednesday, the final day, school busses dropped off eager and excited students at Layton's Davis Conference Center. People shuffled into different rooms for mixed adventures with varying storytellers. The professional storytellers this year included Celtic harpist Patrick Ball; Diane Ferlatte, international preserver of African-American folk history; Syd Lieberman, oral historian; and Olga Loya, the bilingual Latina storyteller. Other accomplished storytellers included Teresa Clark, Omar and Lori Hansen, Bill Higley, Anneliese Konkol, Janine Nishiguchi, and Nannette Watts, as well as other local storytellers.
This year, Davis School District's own superintendent, W. Bryan Bowles, received the notable Karen J. Ashton Storytelling Award. Ashton's determination to preserve storytelling in Utah led to the founding of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Bowles was recognized as a leader who believes in literacy, and who advocates for students, adults, and community reading together through the Davis Reads program. He also served as a Master of Ceremonies.
One of the goals of the Festival is to promote the art of storytelling. "We aim to enhance local cultural experiences by highlighting local talent as well as bringing in nationally and internationally known professional storytellers. The Festival provides a very eclectic and rich cultural experience," says Ann Ellis, a WSU professor in the Teacher Education Department and Chair of the Storytelling Festival's Executive Committee.
One of the unique offerings of the Festival is storytelling by youngsters. Since its inception in 1996, each year 50-60 children have the opportunity to tell stories; it is a unique legacy to have kids on stage with practicing professionals. "I had a student in my university class recently who was a child storyteller in the Festival's first year. She still remembered the story she told and was incorporating it into one of her lesson plans," explains Ellis, who maintains that these child storytellers have huge gains in self confidence. "Many go on to try new and different things. It's very gratifying," says Ellis.
As an opportunity for the community, the Festival enhances language arts and helps people understand true oral traditions. Poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote, "The world is made of stories, not of atoms." Through its outreach program, the Festival benefits area schools. This year, lucky schools in Davis County included Clearfield High School and Adelaide Elementary. Students from throughout the Davis School District participated as storytellers. For example, Holly Hansen's fifth grade class at Centerville Elementary held try outs for the opportunity. The fortunate winners were Megan Hulse, telling "The Witches Long, Brown Sack," and Mali Hodgson, who told "The Wide-Mouthed Frog." Both girls were anxious and excited as they waited for their turn on the stage following Diane Ferlatte.
The Festival also includes workshops on campus. While many attendees are teachers, the workshops are available to a broad audience -- anyone who is interested in learning to tell a story. This year, the infamous Syd Lieberman conducted a workshop entitled "Summer of Treason," a focus on American history and the writers of the Declaration of Independence. Bilingual storyteller, Olga Loya, provided a workshop on Latino folklore entitled, "God, Virtues, and Death."
Volunteers take care of all the Festival's logistics, from ticket sales to opening doors and directing traffic. "They are just terrific," Ellis said of the volunteers. Ellis feels that way about the sponsors of the Festival. One benefit of such support is that the Festival's cost is kept affordable. A family of six could attend for $15.
The end of the Festival left listeners anticipating next year. After all "story lovers young and old know there is no pleasure exactly like the moment when storyteller and listener meet and are just right for each other," observed the first Festival Chair, Karen B. Lofgreen. Storytellers will be back next March to weave tales of lore, humor, fantasy, and reality.