Friday, September 11, 2009


Every September the storytellers of Utah launch a fantastic summer event, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. This year it was our great pleasure to attend.
We certainly got our money’s worth. They had invited a dozen national tellers, professionals who make their living telling stories. No wonder we loved it. The national tellers are all pretty good. We’ve learned to love them. For the most part they come complete with long southern drawls and a gift for exaggeration.
The southern tellers pull you into their lives, into their history, into their landscape. Go to a festival in Tennessee or Texas, and you’ll feel like you’ve been to Tennessee and Texas, also, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia. You come home with a sense that you have rested in the bosom of the people, become part of them somehow.
The Timpanogos Festival is surprisingly similar to the festival in Jonesborough Tennessee. It is huge—ten thousand visitors, maybe more. The programs are housed in enormous tents and on a marvellous hill under the stars. The festival goes on for several days, multiple choices every 90 minutes. When you first arrive you wonder what to choose. Later you realize it doesn’t really matter what you choose, because any story those tellers tell is likely to be wonderful.
There was music. There was audience participation. Sitting in tents and on the hill under the stars we feasted on words, gorged ourselves on laughter. We heard about North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee! No doubt about it, we came home happy and well entertained.
But wait a minute! We weren’t in the south. We were in Utah. I’d almost forgotten where we were. Curiously, we did not hear a single story about Utah or its people, and that, in a place where the local storytellers have the organizational structure to put on such a large and well-managed event, strikes me as very surprising. To be fair, the brochure didn’t promise any local tellers or any local stories. I guess I just expected them. It’s funny how you can have an expectation without knowing you have it.

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