Every year Laurinburg becomes the center of tradition and art with the Storytelling Festival of Carolina. Hosted by The Storytelling & Arts Center of the Southeast, this festival brings nationally acclaimed storytellers to the area, to celebrate the age old art of storytelling. This is a weekend-long festival that begins Friday Oct. 17, at 131 S. Main St. in Laurinburg and ends Sunday Oct. 19.
For first time attendees to the event, Jan Schmidt the retired executive director of the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast said, “People should expect the best storytellers in the country. They have told stories nationally and internationally. The stories are incredibly captivating, fun and, for this time of year, ghostly.
“We will also have some Edgar Allen Poe stories. We are a Big Read Community and this year our book is by Edgar Allen Poe, so some of the storytellers will do stories or poems from Poe,” she continued. “There is a huge mixture of stories. People will be amazed by how engaging the stories are. You are in a tent of hundreds of people and feel like they are telling the story just to you. We will also have food vendors and workshops for people who would like to learn from our storytellers. Our guild members, who are also talented, will tell stories during the 30-minute breaks when the main stage is not up.”
The festival begins on Friday at 7:30 p.m. with an olio. This is a sort of preview of the magic that the rest of the weekend holds. On Saturday the grounds will open at 8:30 a.m. with stories beginning at 9:30 a.m. On Saturday evening, there will also be a gala from 7 to 10 p.m. This also offers an opportunity to meet the tellers. The final day of the festival, Sunday, begins just like Saturday, except ending earlier at 3 p.m.
This year there are also opportunities for amateur storytellers to try their hand at the art. The Sharing Place will be open during all of the breaks and anyone who signs up can tell a tale. At The Sharing Place there is a competition among amateurs called a Story Slam.
“People who want to tell stories will put their names in a hat and have three minutes to finish a story based on the beginning that we give them. It might be a sentence or a paraphrase, but they have to finish it with an impromptu story. There are prizes, too,” said Schmidt.
Perhaps the most important thing to note about the festival, however, is that it is intended for all audiences.
“Storytelling is a family activity. It is great for kids, but it also great for people from 9 to 90 and everyone in between. We all take the stories at a different level of sophistication and the storytellers aren’t talking up to the kids or down to the adults. This is for everybody,” Schmidt said.
This year there is also a Children’s Place where restless kids can play, but stories can still be heard.
For more information or to register to attend, please visit www.storytellingfestivalofcarolina.org or call 910-277-3599.
Photos: Internationally acclaimed story tellers will gather in Laurinburg for the Storytelling Festival of Carolina Oct. 17 and 18.