Storytelling fest will feature new voices

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Familiar faces and new voices have become the trademark of the Brundidge Historical Society’s Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival, which is held annually the last weekend in January.

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival features two tellers, who are retuning by popular demand, and two who are making their first appearances at the Pike County storytelling event.

This year the sponsoring organization will break with tradition and bring Barbara McBride-Smith back to the stage.

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McBride-Smith was the featured teller at the June Buggin’ Storytelling in the summer but has not appeared at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival.

“Barbara was scheduled to appear at the 2010 festival but she was unable to get out of Oklahoma because of the ice storm,” said Cathie Steed, a member of the BHS storytelling committee. “Everyone enjoyed her so much at our June event so we wanted her to one of our festival tellers.”

McBride-Smith will join Michael Reno Harrell as the “new” voices for the 2011 storytelling festival.

“I am thrilled to be coming back to Brundidge and Troy to piddle around with the friendly folks in Alabama,” said McBride-Smith. “Way back before they migrated to Texas, my daddy’s people were Alabamians, so being there is sort of a homecoming for me.”

Laughter and a few salty tears are McBride-Smith’s trademark. She serves her stories with a side of Southern grit.

“The stories that I’m bringing with me this time are about men, mamas and mammograms,” McBride-Smith said, laughing. “Mercy, it’s a good thing y’all have a sense of humor.”

It was just natural that Harrell would become a storyteller because it comes so naturally to him. His style had been described as being “like a breakfast of butter and molasses on a warm biscuit – slow and easy.

“I’d been performing my self-penned songs and stories on the road for many years when one night in a motel room I chanced on a PBS broadcast,” Harrell said. “There was this little, old lady with a turned up red hat and a patchwork skirt standing on a stage in a tent taking about taking piano lessons from her cousin or somebody. I was mesmerized.”

Harrell said he laughed so hard from the mere joy of a story.

“By the end of Ms. Kathryn Windham’s story I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “And, thanks to the chance introduction to the Great Dame of Storytelling that’s what happened.”

Harrell said he was honored to be asked to perform at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival.

“I’m looking forward to bringing a little bit of Western North Carolina to Southern Alabama.”

Tickets are available for the 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. storytelling concerts at the Trojan Center Theater by calling 334-735-3125 and on site at The Messenger.

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival is sponsored in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.