2013 Storytelling Festival was ‘world class event’

Published 11:00 pm Monday, January 28, 2013

Donald Davis spins a story at the 10 a.m. performance of the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival at Troy University on Saturday. The audience rolled with laughter as Davis told stories from his first year in school, and the embarrassment that came along with that time.

In the age of e-everything, it was more than a bit amazing that nearly a thousand people made their way to a storytelling festival in rural Pike County over the weekend.

They came from as far north as Decatur and as far south as Mobile. They came from the Florida Panhandle, the hills of Tennessee, the plains of South Georgia and the delta of Mississippi to hear master storytellers Donald Davis, Sheila Kay Adams, Andy Offutt Irwin and Michael Reno Harrell weave their magic with words.

Dr. David Dye, Troy University professor emeritus, called the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival a “world class event.”

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“It was truly a world class event,” Dye said. “It’s hard for me to describe the quality of this event. Unless you can be in that arena and be a part of the connection between these master storytellers and the audience, it’s hard to understand how I could say that it’s a world class event. It was a joy for me to be a part of something of such high quality and lasting value.”

Dye said that storytelling is an “old time connection.”

“It’s the magical way we share with each other,” he said. “And, there’s nothing like sharing face to face. There’s a connection that you can’t experience any other way. And, these storytellers connected with the audience in a unique and special way.

“The extended standing ovation that the storytellers received at the close of the festival was genuine. At times, standing ovations are only done out of courtesy but this one was a well-deserved, sincere and appreciative nod of approval for what we had experienced.”

Johnny Steed, president of the sponsoring Brundidge Historical Society, said the storytelling committee didn’t think it was possible to equal last year’s Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival.

“But, this one was right up there with it,” Steed said. “From the storytelling concerts at the schools on Friday to the last concert on Saturday night, as Andy Offutt Irwin would say, it was ‘all good.’”

Michael Reno Harrell performed concerts for about 500 students at Pike County Elementary School and Pike Liberal Arts School and Sheila Kay Adams was the featured teller at the Trojan Center Theater. Adams’ concert was presented to a packed house of university students and students from Charles Henderson, Goshen, Pike County and Pike Liberal Arts high schools.

“We rotate among the elementary schools each year to give students at all schools an opportunity to hear master storytellers,” Steed said.

Bennie Jinright, of Troy, has attended the last five storytelling festivals and said that she hopes to never miss another one.

“I don’t plan anything for the last weekend in January because I’m going to the storytelling festival,” she said. “I absolutely love it. There’s something magical about storytelling. The stories will make you laugh and cry and then take a deep breath to take it all in.”

Jinright took three facial tissues to the storytelling festival – one to laugh in, one to cry in and an “extra.”

“My husband laughed so much that he used all my tissues and then took out his handkerchief,” Jinright said. “Friends were with us and they said they laughed until their faces were tired. The storytellers were absolutely fantastic, the music was great. The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival is now a tradition with a lot of us. I can hardly wait until the next one.

For Rosa Tillery, the 2013 storytelling festival was her first.

“I’ve never enjoyed anything as much in my life,” Tillery said. “I didn’t know there was anything like that. It was the best entertainment experience that I have ever had. Any time I have a chance to go to something like that, I want to go. It lifted my spirits. I’m a big fan now.”