Sunday, September 30, 2012

Storytelling Road Trip: Prickett's Fort, Athens and Onward

We started early Friday morning, knowing we had a 2 1/2 hour drive to the Prickett's Fort Storytelling Festival. There is a magic in the air just before the sun comes up, that hazy half-light when the world is soft and fresh and waiting to begin. I felt the same, fresh and ready for a day of stories.

This festival is a new event for the WV Storytelling Guild, planned in cooperation with the Prickett's Fort staff and local Fairmont State University. Student volunteers were on hand to help set up and to act as guides as busloads of students from four area schools arrived. Adult volunteers were there too, and acted as site monitors and general help for all sorts of unexpected tasks.

The children filed into the amphitheatre for the first event of the day, the "olio" storytelling, which is another name for a program featuring several storytellers, each telling a short story. A few buses were late arriving, so we got a later start than planned, but we rolled ahead. I told my story of my childhood creation, Mr. Skinnyhead, and then hurried to my site for the day--the porch of Job House where I was joined by storyteller Mikalena Zuckett to wait for the olio to finish and the classes to be divided into groups and sent to the various sites. We had four storytelling sites set up, and schools also had the option to include a tour of the replica Revolutionary War era fort.

I had excellent sessions with the three groups sent our way during the day. The groups ranged from 100-150 students per group and from 2nd grade through middle school. I liked our site very much--the old tools on the porch of the historic house were the perfect backdrop for my Appalachian stories and ballads.

We had two sessions in the morning, broke for lunch, and then one more session init was time for gthe children to head back to their schools. I was sad to see the last students leave; then it was time to take down my sound system and take a break! A few of us joined forces to make a tour of the antique stores in the area, and then had dinner before going back to Prickett's Fort for an evening concert for the public.

We wondered if we would have turnout for this first-ever event, but need not have worried. A good group turned out to listen as we presented our stories. I met two ladies from a local book group who had seen the event's publicity in the paper and decided to come because they had never heard storytellers before. They were well-pleased with what they heard! They each bought a copy of Self-Rising Flowers, the collection of Appalachian women stories that includes my story, "Yellow Roses."

Another family saw the concert listed in their local newspaper's events column and decided to come and see what storytelling was. They loved it too, and we talked a good while afterwords as they asked about the stories and told me their own family stories (including the one about the grandmother who was a madam!). They also bought a book and one of my CDs. A few other CD and book sales added to my sense that this was a very successful evening. For my performance, I decided to tell my story "Gracie's Cabin," a haunting original tale I wrote based on the name of a road I passed one day as we were traveling to my oldest's son's home. Stories can come from anywhere, can't they?

The co-conspirators--I mean storytellers! From left, Judi Tarowsky of St. Clairsville, OH, Mikalena Zuckett of Charleston, Katie Ross of Ridgeley, me, Kevin Cordi of Columbus, OH, Jason Burns of Morgantown, June Riffle of Fairmont, and Jo Ann Dadisman of Preston county, WV (June and Jo Ann perform together as the Mountain Echoes). Not present is the man responsible for the work of organizing the event so successfully, Rich Knoblich of Wheeling.

Larry and I opted to drive home rather than getting a motel room for the night, even though it meant getting home around midnight. I had another performance Saturday morning about an hour from home and preferred to sleep in my own bed, even if it meant a shorter night because I never rest well the first night away from home. So Saturday morning we were up and out early again, although this time not before daybreak! We arrived in Athens, Ohio in plenty of time for me to set up and take a few minutes to tour the library. It really is a lovely space, well-maintained with friendly staff and a perfect setting--near high-traffic areas but in a quiet dead-end location with an small outside amphitheatre, windows out to the surrounding gardens and a quiet neighborhood around it.

The event was the library's 19th anniversary in this location. They had to build on not long after building the library because business boomed so quickly. Completely ADA accessible, the library offers meeting room space, an area for teens, a nice children's area and all sorts of activities on a regular basis. I was one of the special events planned for their anniversary celebration and was advised that my audience would probably come and go as people moved from event to event. The group was small when I started, but soon grew to a good-sized audience, mostly adults. I shifted my stories accordingly. No photos from Athens, unfortunately, because I forgot to give my camera to Larry. Ah well.

When we left, we intended to drive straight home. But then I remembered that it was the Volcano Days Festival, a celebration of West Virginia's oil and gas boomtown called Volcano and the industry that developed around the discovery of this natural resource. We'd attended the festival before and loved it; I wanted to go back but have alays been busy on the festival's annual weekend date. Although I was seriously tired (and almost had Larry turn around and go home when we were halfway there) we made the trek to the festival.

And boy did we have fun. I'll have pictures and more in my next post, including some mysterious tools, a flaming teapot, a ramble through wild terrain in quest of a once-boom town called Petroleum, getting lost, meeting strangers in some lonely backwoods place called Crane's Hole, and finding a new ghost story. As I said above, stories can come from anywhere.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Sounds like a busy time for you, but also sounds like you enjoyed all of it.

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