Storyteller Donald Davies takes the stage. Photo courtesy of Utah Valley Convention and Visitor Bureau.

You could trace my love of stories back to my childhood Labor Day weekends at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem. My mom was a volunteer who helped festival founder Karen Ashton carry out her vision. When I started going to the festival as just a 5 or 6 year old, I already knew it was something special.

Some of my memories involve the beloved paper ticket strung around my neck with yarn, begging my parents to get us fresh peaches and ice cream, and being averse to the Porta Potties. But mostly, I remember being engrossed in Carmen Deedy's adventures growing up Cuban, singing along with Bill Harley's silly stories and wondering if all of Donald Davis' growing-up tales were true—and how many different bow ties he had.

While some tellers come and go and the festival is now at Mt. Timpanogos Park instead of the Olmstead property (and the Ashtons' yard before that), the storytelling festival is just as magical to me now as it was years ago.

This year's theme is “Everybody has a story.” Karen Acerson, executive director, said they are stressing the importance of family stories and telling children stories about their ancestors. “How good it is for children—even the bad stories, even the negative stories—to see how their ancestors came through it,” Acerson says.

Listening to storytellers at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Photo courtesy of Utah Valley Convention and Visitor Bureau.

To reinforce the theme, people can submit their own stories on the new website. If you need to be inspired first, head down to the festival and listen. This year will feature some oldies (but goodies) as well as some newcomers.

“We just have amazing storytellers,” Acerson says. “We're bringing one clear from Ireland—Liz Weir. She'll be new this year. We have Josh Goforth who is a Grammy-nominated musician and teller. We have a lot of variety of old favorites and new ones that will be exciting to have.” 

One definite highlight of this year's festival will be Syd Lieberman's telling of his original piece “Abraham & Isaac: Sacrifice at Gettysburg,” which he wrote with his wife, Adrienne. Acerson says she's heard it before and it's a beautiful reminder of things important in our history. “It brings history into focus in such a personal way,” she says.

Donald Davis, one of my personal favorites, has been telling since the festival's second year. He says it's a wonderful festival because of the large family audience—perfect for his tales of sibling trouble and growing-up issues—and he loves that children get to tell the opening stories.

Why should you come to the festival? As Davis says, “It's fun. They'll be totally amazed. They'll get there and hear a story and then they'll be telling something to their family that they've never heard before.” He hopes people will listen, be reminded of their own stories, and then start sharing.

Bil Lepp performs at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Photo courtesy of Utah Valley Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Insider tips:

  • Take the shuttle. You can park at three nearby churches, and a shuttle will come every 15–20 minutes. There is parking up at the park, but it's first come, first served, and you need to have at least four people in your vehicle.

  • If you bring children, take advantage of the puppet shows, music, and pottery during the half hour between storytelling hours. Make sure you go to “Bedtime Stories” in the evening. It's great for the little ones.

  • Bring children who are about 6 or older. You can bring younger kids, but you may be wandering around with them if they don't have very long attention spans yet. No babes in arms.

  • There are food vendors on site, but take snacks for the kiddos, water, and fans. It can get pretty hot sometimes.

  • Be sure your kids get a chance to listen to the children tellers. It's fun for them to see kids their own age telling stories (and might even inspire them).

  • Plan to purchase a few CDs of your family's favorite tellers. They are perfect for road trips.

The festival begins Thursday evening and runs through Saturday, Aug. 31. Visit the site to read more about the festival, see the schedule, and purchase tickets.