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‘The Dean of Storytelling’: Davis to head Pike Piddlers’ festival this weekend

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival will kickoff Friday night with supper and stories at the We Piddle Around Theater in downtown Brundidge and continue with three storytelling concerts at the Trojan Center Theater on Saturday. And, “Oh, Man, What a Festival” it will be with master storytellers Donald Davis, Michael Reno Harrell, Josh Goforth and Adam Booth.

Davis is the Dean of Storytelling. He’s in great demand and on the road about 11 months out of the year, telling stories and advocating for storytelling not just the profession but in everyday life.

“We connect with one another through the stories that we tell each other across the family dinner table or at the bar after work,” Davis said. “Stories are really about identity, about who we are. Technology may be all about moving information but it is in our stories that wisdom is passed down.”

Had it not been for Donald Davis, the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival might not have gotten off the ground. “We knew for a storytelling festival to be successful in rural Pike County, we had to get the top storytellers and we knew it would not be easy to do since we were just an ‘upstart,’” said Johnny Steed, who emcees the annual festival. “And, we got turned down hand over fist. Donald Davis was gracious in his refusal and we understood. He was booked for about four years.”

However, early one morning, the telephone rang. It was Davis who said he wanted to help get the festival off the ground. “If you want me, I’ll come.”

And, Davis has been piddlin’ around every year since. “We are honored and so appreciative that ‘the Dean’ will come each year,” Steed said. “The New York Times was quoted as saying that Donald Davis’ stories often leave listeners limp with laughter as the same time they struggle with a lump in the throat. Anybody that has ever heard him will tell you that is true.”

Steed said Davis is a master at his art.

“When he steps to the microphone, he takes you off on a journey that is as visual as if you were watching it on a movie screen,” Steed said. “He’s magic. Storytelling is magical.”

Davis was born in Waynesville, a small town in the mountainous region of Western North Carolina. As a child, storytelling was a daily part of his family life.

“My grandmother did lots of telling,” Davis said. “I remember hearing those stories and, by the time I was in the second grade, I was telling the kids in school stories I’d heard my grandmother tell.”

Steed said the audiences at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival might hear some of those same stories and others that he shares at festivals from North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island to Ojai, California. “But no matter what stories Donald Davis tells, you’ll split your sides with laughter for sure and you might have to wipe away a tear or two,” he said.

The Friday night storytelling concert at the We Piddle Around Theater is sold out, as is the 2 p.m. concert at the Trojan Center Theater. Tickets are available for the 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. storytelling concerts at the Trojan Center Theater on the campus of Troy University. Tickets are $10 and include preshow music that begins 30 minutes prior to the storytelling concerts.

For tickets call 344-9427 or 670-6303. Tickets are also available at The Messenger.