Azalea Storytelling Festival rolls into 15th year

Feb. 28, 2011

Donald Davis
Donald Davis
Kathryn Tucker Windham
Kathryn Tucker Windham
Ed Stivender
Ed Stivender
Sheila Kay Adams
Sheila Kay Adams
Bil Lepp
Bil Lepp

The Azalea Storytelling Festival has two reasons to celebrate this year – it is marking its 15th anniversary and has been named one of the Southeast Tourism Society's Top 20 Events for the month of March.

"We are so excited and honored to receive the STS's designation this year," said Joyce Morgan, one of the festival's co-founders. "It is a validation of what we've always known – that this is one of the preeminent storytelling events in the Southeast, if not the country."

The annual event, a past winner of the National Storytelling Leadership Award, returns to Callaway Auditorium March 4-6 and will feature five of Azalea's most popular storytellers.

Donald Davis , a longtime favorite, returns again this year. A master storyteller, Davis began learning his craft while growing up on the western North Carolina land his family has lived on since 1781.

He is an author, recording artist and retired minister whose yarns have been described as "funny but true, nostalgic without being sentimental, and reminiscent of your favorite childhood adventures."

Davis is a former chairman of the board of directors for the National Storytelling Association, and he has appeared as the featured teller at the Smithsonian Institution, the World's Fair and at festivals and concerts throughout the United States and the world.

Prolific author Kathryn Tucker Windham is scheduled to perform at this year's Azalea event.

One of the pioneering female journalists in the South, Windham covered the civil rights struggle that took place in her hometown, Selma, Ala.

Since that time, she has continued to write, photograph and tell stories about the people and places that fascinate her, and she is credited with contributing to storytelling's surge in popularity in the mid- 1970s.

An author of 24 books, Windham is perhaps best known for her "Thirteen Ghosts and Jeffrey" series, which tells stories of Southern ghosts, including an amiable apparition that Windham believes has taken up residence in her Selma home.

During her career, Windham has earned a number of honors. In 1995, she was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Storytelling Association.

Ed Stivender , a longtime favorite, has been a professional storyteller since 1977.  He specializes in Anglo-American folklore, literary tales and personal narratives with an emphasis on the humor of life.

Called "the Robin Williams of storytelling" and "a Catholic Garrison Keillor," Stivender offers affectionate glimpses of his Irish-Catholic upbringing in Philadelphia during the 1950s and early '60s.

He has been a featured performer at the National Storytelling Festival, the Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival in Ireland and the Graz Festival in Austria.

Stivender holds theology degrees from St. Joseph's College and Notre Dame and taught high school in Hartford, Conn., where he honed his performance skills and learned the art of "controlled foolishness."

He has written two well-received books, "Raised Catholic, Can You Tell?" and "Still Catholic After All These Fears."

Sheila Kay Adams is an American storyteller , author and banjo player who received the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Award in recognition of her valuable contributions to the study of North Carolina folklore.

In 1995, Adams released her first publication, "Come Go Home With Me," a semi-autobiographical collection of short stories that was the winner of the 1997 Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians. She has recorded two song albums – "Loving Forward, Loving Back" and "A Spring in the Burton Cove," as well as an album of tales, "Don't Git Above Your Raising."

Bil Lepp is an award-winning storyteller, author and recording artist. Lepp's recordings have received a Parent's Choice Approved award and an NAPPA Honorsaward. He published his first novel, "Halfdollar," in 2008, and he released a live DVD in 2009.

Growing up in a family where it was always the responsibility of the listener to decide whether or not a story was true, Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age.

A champion and veteran of the West Virginia Liars' contest, Lepp said that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest.

Carol Cain '82 of Hogansville returns as emcee.

The festival officially begins on Friday, March 4, with a 7:30 p.m. storytelling concert. It continues Saturday with the first concert scheduled for 10 a.m., followed by concerts at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The final day is Sunday, March 6, beginning with coffee and doughnuts at 8:30 a.m. and followed by sacred storytelling and music at 9:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m.

This year's Azalea Storytelling Festival is sponsored by Lafayette Society for Performing Arts, LaGrange College, LaGrange Memorial Library, LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, Troup County School System and West Georgia Technical College.

Tickets are $35 for the full festival, $15 for Friday evening, $30 for Saturday, $10 for Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, and $15 for Saturday evening. Student tickets can be purchased at a discount, and admission is free Sunday morning.

For more information, visit the festival's page here

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