Everyone loves to hear a good story, so it's no wonder why the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has been a huge success for the past 23 years.
What started with humble beginnings of a handful of people in an Orem home, the festival now finds itself nestled in Provo Canyon at Mount Timpanogos Park, attracting 26,000 visitors from Utah and around the world.
The 3-day event brings tales to life for the young and old through stories, art and music. Communications Director Marina Spence says the festival can provide the safe and fun environment that both grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy.
"We are unique in the storytelling world because the content of the stories here, we ask all of our storytellers to bring their family-friendly stories here and there are many of them. So parents and grandparents can feel safe coming here to the storytelling festival that the stories that they share and enjoy with their family members...they won’t be embarrassed, they will be appropriate for all ages."
This family friendly atmosphere has storytellers like Donald Davis come back again and again.
"I’ve been coming since the second year, so I’ve been coming for 22 years. It’s a wonderfully programmed festival with a wonderful family audience. It’s a very much family audience that makes it great fun."
And these visitors aren’t let down. Some of the best storytellers from across the nation and around the world come to raise their voices and tell hundreds of tailored tales.
Clare Murphy, an Irish born storyteller who’s dynamic personality captivates the audience, believes that storytelling can unite people from different backgrounds and cultures.
“As a listener, you are a co-creator in the process of storytelling. It doesn’t matter that you can’t read, it doesn’t matter if English is your first language, it doesn’t matter if you are dyslexic or autistic...it doesn’t matter. If you’re isolated or excluded from society in anyway, or if you have trouble or are shy, anything that excludes you from the world, story doesn’t because it’s in your head. So you were listening tonight, you heard stories, but your version is different from the other 400 people that were sitting there and what they heard. That’s the power of it. So I’m doing half the work, but you in your head are using your imagination to see what only you can see and that’s where it gets really interesting.”
There is no need to worry about hearing the same story twice, says Spence.
“The storytellers do not repeat stories. So each time you go to a tent to listen to a storyteller, if you’re following a storyteller that you like then you will not hear the same story again. So it all changes."
Clare, like many storytellers who come to the festival, says that one of the best parts of performing to an audience is their reaction to the stories.
"That feeling you get when hear a really good story, when your chest expands and your eyes goes wide and your mouth drops open it’s like that and you’re a bit lost in your imagination, that’s what I consider the feeling of wonder. Some people get it from jumping off a cliff with a bungee cord tied to their ankles and some people get it from jumping out of a plane. Storytelling can do that and I love watching it happen while I’m telling."
That sense of awe and wonder have people coming back again and again every year. The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is now the largest storytelling Festival in the western United States, and the second largest festival in the nation. And as storyteller Donald says...
"It’ll be fun. It’ll be fun. If you can’t count on anything else, you’ll have a good time."
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival runs August 30 - September 2.