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Familiar faces headline festival

Donald Davis performs during the 2010 Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival in Troy, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

When nationally acclaimed storyteller Donald Davis took his final bow at the 2010 Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival, he closed with the words, “I’ll see you next year” and the audience responded with thunderous applause.

This year will be Davis’ fifth appearance at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival and joining him will be national award-winning storyteller, Sheila Kay Adams.

Both Davis and Adams hail from the mountains of Western North Carolina and have been telling stories together professionally for, how many years, they’re not saying.

Having grown up in the same neck of the woods, Davis and Adams share a love of home and family and both provide rich fodder for their storytelling.

Davis and Adams are return tellers at the granddaddy of all storytelling festivals, the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., and other major storytelling festivals around the country.

“We like to say, ‘If you can’t go to Jonesborough, then come to Pike County, Alabama,” said Johnny Steed, a member of the sponsoring Brundidge Historical Society’s storytelling committee. “Since our Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival began in 2007, we have brought ten of the country’s top storytellers to Pike County and, as long as people will come, we’ll continue to do that.”

Steed said much of the credit for the success of the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival goes to Davis and Adams.

Professional storytelling was relatively unknown in South Alabama when Adams reintroduced the art at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge in October 2005. She returned in 2006 and the pump was primed for a very ambitions undertaking, a storytelling festival in rural Alabama.

“Out of the goodness of his heart, Donald Davis agreed to appear at that first festival with Andy Offutt Irwin and with them as headliners, they set the storytelling hook in Pike County,” Steed said. “We are excited and very proud to welcome Donald Davis and Sheila Kay Adams back to the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival.”

Davis and Adams have the ability to have the audience splitting its side with laughter one minute and blinking back tears the next, said Linda Steed, storytelling committee member.

“They have different storytelling styles,” Steed said. “Donald Davis is a high energy teller who takes off like a rocket and with you right along with him. Sheila Kay Adams is more low key but you hang on her every word. They paint pictures with words. Hearing them is like watching a movie. I’m amazed at what they can do with just words.”

Adams is a seventh generation ballad singer as well as a storyteller and has appeared at the We Piddle Around Theater three times. This year will be her second appearance at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival.

“Donald Davis and Sheila Kay Adams both have large fan followings and we’ve got people coming from as far away as Franklin, Tennessee to hear them,” Steed said. “We always bring back familiar faces and introduce new voices. Barbara McBride-Smith and Michael Reno Harrell will be at the festival for the first time and they will bring their unique styles to the art. It will be storytelling at its best.”

The Friday night and Saturday 2 p.m. Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival concerts are sold out. Tickets are available for the 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday concerts at the Trojan Center Theater on the Troy University campus by calling 334-735-3125 and at The Messenger in Troy.