The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival Turns 25

Published 08/28 2014 10:19AM

Updated 08/28 2014 12:16PM

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival Turns 25

Orem, Utah (August 28-30, 2014) - Sporting its largest lineup of storytellers ever, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary on August 28-30 with a packed schedule of audience favorites. Attendees to the event have the opportunity to enjoy stories, live music, puppets, and pottery in the beautiful Mt. Timpanogos Park in the mouth of Provo Canyon or catch workshops and evening performances at other Orem venues.
In addition to the ticketed events, community members are invited for the third year to a free kickoff concert on Wednesday, August 27 at the Shops at Riverwoods. This year's concert, held at Riverwood's gazebo, will feature storyteller and musician Bill Harley. Starting at 7:00 pm, the event is a great opportunity for locals to enjoy songs and stories from a Grammy-winning artist and to discover what storytelling really is.

What is the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival?
Although storytelling may bring to mind picture books and children, the traditional art of oral storytelling is an ancient tradition. Every major culture has stories and tales it passes from generation to generation, always complimented by new stories designed to educate, entertain, and inspire. In fact, with the exception of the Friday evening child-friendly Bedtime Stories programs, the Festival is aimed at adults, teens, and older children. Tellers mix a variety of traditional folktales, contemporary stories from their own lives, and even music into their tales.

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival continues to grow. Due to heavy demand over the last few years, a new tent will be added this year at Mt. Timpanogos Park for Saturday night's Laugh-In Night, adding an additional 1,000 seats to the weekend's most popular event. Local tellers from the Hauntings contest, held last October, will join the lineup at the ever-popular Shivers In the Night program on Friday evening. "Some of our best scary stories come from local tellers," says Karen Acerson, President of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival Board. The additions this year only serve to highlight the ongoing growth that the Festival has witnessed ever since its humble beginnings.

25 Years of History
Twenty-five years ago, the Friends of the Orem Library were trying to come up with a way to raise money to build a children's wing. They started out with bake sales, home tours, book sales, and backyard drama performances, but soon realized that they would have to come up with a new, more ambitious idea in order to reach their aggressive fundraising goals. That was when Karen Ashton, president of the friends group, attended her first National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee and thought, "What if we try this in Utah?" Eight months later, with the help of twelve volunteers and local sponsors, the first Timpanogos Storytelling Festival was held on the grounds of the Ashton home in Orem, with three professional tellers, several local tellers, a handful of musicians and around 900 people in attendance. The adventure had begun.

The Festival was a hit with audiences and quickly started to grow. By the second year, the Festival added an evening performance at the SCERA Shell and school groups were invited to the Friday morning session. Eventually, the original goal of the Festival was realized when festival profits were added to private donations and a city bond in order to break ground on the Orem Library's children's wing.
In 1996 the festival outgrew the Ashton's yard and moved to the Olmstead property at the mouth of Provo Canyon, which had room for more tents, more storytellers, the addition of a youth teller event, and space for hosting and merchandise.

However, the Festival quickly outgrew the new venue and the City of Orem looked into other options for the event. In the end, the City decided to take the needs of the Festival into consideration as they designed Mt. Timpanogos Park at the mouth of Provo Canyon. In 2005, the Festival moved to into its new home. Except for during Festival-time, residents use the park year-round as a popular spot for recreation, exercise, and receptions.

Today, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is a beloved tradition for thousands in Utah. The combined attendance at Festival events exceeds 35,000 each year, including about 10,000 students and teachers from Utah schools. Hundreds of visitors also flock from outside the state to the Festival, which is considered one of the premier storytelling festivals in the nation. These visitors bring a significant economic windfall to the area, driving traffic to local hotels and restaurants.

Even as it turns twenty-five, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has not lost its original appeal. Audience members still have the chance to see talented storytellers craft memorable tales while spending the weekend making memories that will last a lifetime.

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