CLEARFIELD — Wanna hear a story? How about 13 of them.
The city’s annual Storytelling Festival returns this weekend, bringing with it tales of wonder and amazement from a baker’s dozen of both professional and amateur tellers.
The event, billed as the 13th annual, will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, in the Clearfield Community Arts Center, 140 E. Center St. Admission is free, and all ages are invited to attend.
Laurie Allen is the founder and organizer of the festival, running it for the city each year since its inception.
“It’s kind of been my baby, and I’m very protective of it,” says Allen, a storyteller herself.
Allen said the festival has gradually grown over the years, although the fickle January weather can affect a given year’s attendance.
“One year it was awfully foggy, and we had low attendance,” she said.
But most years, they get a good crowd. To illustrate the growth of the festival, Allen says it started out in just one room and has now expanded to two.
“When we realized we were sending people away, we added a second room,” she said.
Typically, the festival attracts about 100 attendees. All storytellers will share their tales twice — once in each room — “because, really, once you’ve prepared the story, you may as well tell it twice,” Allen said. The theater usually fills up, while the other room has plenty of seats available.
“But I’d rather have two rooms where attendance is sparse in one room than turn audience members away again,” Allen said. “If they tell in front of 15 people in one room, and then 80 in the other, that’s fine.”
Allen says no auditions are required for the Clearfield festival, and it’s not a competition, which makes the event a relaxed affair. Plus which, she adds, for first-time tellers who haven’t spun a yarn in front of an audience before, the atmosphere allows them to “feel comfortable in trying.”
“I tell my tellers they get a six-minute limit, but we’re not really strict about that,” she said. “But I do tell them that we need to be through before the audience is.”
Allen said they have 13 storytellers scheduled for this year’s event, representing both professionals and amateurs. And they represent a wide range of ages.
“They’re starting at 10 years old all the way up to, well, some I don’t know how old they are,” she said.
Many of this year’s presenters are members of the Utah Storytelling Guild, and they come from as far away as Payson.
One teller who might be recognizable to audience members is Karl Behling, a schoolteacher from the Ogden area who’s well-known in local storytelling circles. Another popular local teller is Allen Griffin, who will bring his puppets and share something called “Little Red Riding Hood Blues.”
Allen said they have a number of musicians signed up this year; they’ll tell a story and play an instrument.
“I had somebody come once — they did a story, and then played a song on a musical saw,” she said. “We’ll have a variety of styles of telling. One guy will do a cowboy poem.”
Although some folk tales will be shared, Allen says there will also be personal stories.
“We’ve got a number of personal tales in the festival,” she said. “That’s become very popular in the storytelling world.”
Allen will emcee the event in one of the rooms. The other room will be emceed by Kristen Clay, founder of Story Tours, which uses professional storytellers to give tours of haunted places in Ogden and Salt Lake City.
“The nice thing about this festival is that the audiences are really warm and welcoming,” Allen said. “And the tellers aren’t paid, so getting them to come back year after year like this tells us they enjoy it, too.”
Allen encourages those who’ve never seen a storytelling festival to give it a chance. She said it’s nothing like a library story time — rather, it’s people on a stage, without a book, telling a tale.
Plus which, it’s a uniquely entertaining event for all ages, according to Allen.
“I like to tell people the magic of the story happens somewhere between the teller and the audience,” she said. “They craft the words, and you create the visuals in your mind. Which is different from a lot of entertainment these days.”