Storytelling, as we know it, began with the advent of man and woman on the earth.
Before we learned to write, we learned to rely on our memory to learn anything. For this, we had to be a good listener.
To tell the story we’d just heard.
A good story teller is always in demand and respected. He or she can easily find an audience, eager to devour every exciting bit of information in the stories.
When people traveled, they shared these stories with others. When they returned home, they brought with them exciting new tales of exotic people and places.
To celebrate this art, a storytelling festival is slated for the weekend of April 28-29 in Downs. Now in its 24th year, the Kansas Storytelling Festival began in 1994.
This festival draws people who appreciate stories and realize their power in shaping our identities as well as pure enjoyment.
At this year’s event, storytellers will take us to a different time and place and stretch our imaginations. They will make us laugh and cry. They will make us think about our own stories and how important it is to pass on to others what we learn in this life.
Every spring, the citizens of this small north-central Kansas town bring nationally recognized talent to their community of 900 souls. Tim Lowry, who makes his home in Summerville, S.C., headlines this year’s festival.
Lowry is best known for his folk tales and stories from American history. He’s presented thousands of educational programs for schools across the country.
Other featured storytellers include Adam Miller, described as a natural-born storytelle, Brian “Fox” Ellis, an author, storyteller of song, myth and poetry; and Linda Gorham, who specializes in surprising twists and unconventional humor tied in her tales.
Osborne County’s Glennys Doane serves on the Festival steering committee and explains how the two-day event works.
Four stages of entertainment run concurrently during the Festival. This gives festivalgoers the chance to choose which performer or story type to attend.
Individual backgrounds and styles make each storyteller distinctive. Tellers are rotated to all stages and story sessions are planned around the interests of children, history, music and personal, anecdotal stories. People travel from across the country to listen to the yarns. They love the stories and believe in their power to move them.
“Our storytellers tell their tales without reading a book, using photos or showing a video,” Doane says. “They use words, inflection and cadence to create pictures and events in the listener’s mind.”
Doane likes to recall what old-time storyteller Donald Davis says about the art, “My business is in movies. I shift the movie I make in my head to your head.”
In addition to the telling of tales, there’s plenty of other activities including good food prepared by caring local hands. Some the most popular items include the famous Lion Club hamburgers and pies, cakes and cinnamon rolls baked by the ladies from nearby Dispatch.
There’s also a resource center where books, CDs and T-shirts from the featured story tellers can be purchased. A story store incorporates a recording booth where festivalgoers can stop and relate their own stories of rural Kansas, or wherever they’re from.
For more information about the 24th annual Kansas Storytelling Festival, visit www.Kansasstorytelling.com. Mark the dates on your calendar and drive to Downs.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.