Sunday, July 18, 1999

Storytellers to gather for Athens festival

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        No need to travel to Jonesborough, Tenn. and the National Storytelling Festival this fall. The first Athens (Ohio) Storytelling Festival is sooner and closer. It debuts Saturday.

        Swapping tales will be Oklahoma's Barbara McBride-Smith (a featured teller at the national) and three Ohio favorites — Rick Sowash, Lyn Ford and Barry Weaver.

        The tales start spinning at 2:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Dairy Barn Cultural Arts Center of Southeast Ohio and continue until 8 p.m. It's a project of the Friends of the Athens Public Library. The hope is that the festival becomes an annual event and grows and grows, says Linda Cochran, the library system's youth services coordinator.

        “We're blessed with potters, quilters but not storytellers. We'd like to fill that niche. There are storytelling groups all over Ohio. We want our own here.”

        Ms. McBride-Smith is known for infusing her stories with humor and history.

        Mr. Sowash, author of Ripsnorting Whoppers: Humor From America's Heartland (Gabriel's Horn; $11.95), is a master of the tall tale. Ms. Ford uses her family roots for multicultural stories. Mr. Weaver includes Appalachian stories in his repertoire and accompanies them with traditional and original music.

        The Athens Storytelling Festival will feature a staple of the national fest, a Liar's Corner for folks with their own stories to tell. There will be impromptu story-swapping throughout the day.

        Admission is $5, $3.50 seniors, free for children under 12. There will be food vendors, but attendees are invited to bring picnics and encouraged to check out the Quilt National, at the Dairy Barn. Information: (740) 592-4272. Athens is on U.S. 50, about 150 miles east of Cincinnati.


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- Storytellers to gather for Athens festival