Storytelling Festival Fellow
In 2017 we invited nationally recognized local storyteller, Sam Payne, to join the festival on an ongoing basis as Weber Storytelling Festival "Fellow." In this role he performs at a variety of events throughout the year, promotes the festival in Utah and nationally, and advises the executive committee. A regular performer at the Weber Storytelling Festival, Sam has been featured at other festivals large and small, all over the country. Also, Sam hosts The Apple Seed: Tellers and Stories, a radio program on the art of storytelling, broadcasting daily on Sirius XM 143.
Twenty-two years ago, I stood on the stage of the very first Weber Storytelling Festival as the opening act for the great storyteller Ed Stivender. It was a chilly morning, under big, white tents on the lawn of Weber State University. My parents were in the audience. I told a story about an ancestor of my father – an ancestor who froze in a snowstorm. Ed delighted and enriched us with a wonderful story about defeating a giant. As my parents and I left the tent, we could hear little bits of conversations all around us from other festival-goers. We heard stuff like this:
“I know a story about a giant too! In MY story…”
“Did I ever tell you about the snowstorm I was in? In that one…”
“Your grandpa was a terrific storyteller. He’s the one who taught me to…”
“I wonder if I could find that old storybook. There’s a story in there that goes…”
On and on they went, all around us. I figure the three or four stories on stage that morning sparked a hundred more.
Some years ago, I had lunch with a very old woman who told me something about her life that has stuck with me. She said, “All my life, it’s been like I’ve been putting things into a sack. Now that I’m old, I’m taking some of those things out of the sack and living on them.” I thought it was a very lovely statement. I imagined all of the achievements, relationships, books read, oceans waded in, boys danced with, and football games cheered on, all stored up – and now, at the end of her experience, ready to be taken out and savored again.
The stories you’ll hear at the Weber Storytelling Festival will have you reaching into your own sack of saved-up stories and sharing them with the people you love. That kind of sharing is delicious. It builds us up like good food builds us up. It helps us understand and appreciate one another better than almost anything there is.
This is an exciting time for story-lovers in Utah. Fueled by twenty-two years of great experiences at the Weber Storytelling Festival, people are going home and inviting loved ones together to share stories in smaller, more intimate spaces. It’s the era of coffee house storytelling shows and living-room storytelling parties. It’s an era in which prisons and hospitals and churches and at-risk youth programs are trusting storytelling to do the heavy lifting in their incredibly important work. What a wonderful thing it is to warm our hands at the bonfire of stories told each year at the festival – a bonfire from which we can carry away embers and light fires of our own.
We hope you love the stories you hear at this year’s festival. And we hope that your family dinners, car rides, living room chats, and walks in the hills ring with your own stories, long after the falling of the festival’s final curtain.
WSU Storytelling Festival Fellow