Cape festival little affected by boil-water advisory

Sunday, April 6, 2008
Sheila Kay Adams told one of her family stories at the Storytelling Festival Saturday in downtown Cape Girardeau. FRED LYNCH flynch@semissourian.com

The boil-water advisory covering much of the eastern half of the city had little effect on the Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival on Saturday.

Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director and festival co-producer Chuck Martin said organizers were ready with bottled water once they heard about the boil-water order Friday. The only challenge occurred Friday when toilets could not be flushed because the water had been shut off at the River Campus and bureau headquarters. Portable toilets accommodated visitors' needs.

On Saturday, a tent that could house 300 people was filled nearly to capacity for Dan Keding's performance.

Keding played the spoons, told stories about his dogs and shared stories his grandmother had told him. He also played a number on his guitar.

"The concept of dumb doesn't fit in the canine category," Keding said at the close of the stories about Jack, an Australian shepherd who learned to operate the electric windows in vehicles, and Mavis, a black lab who learned to get close to people despite early abuse.

But his dog Traveler had a special gift for children when accompanying Keding at school storytelling events. The dog would pick out a child in the classroom — the new student or a victim of bullying, for example — to rest his head on during Keding's story. One boy in particular was not responding to Traveler's attempts to make friends.

"He pushed his chin onto the boy's leg and without response. He then pounded his chin onto the boy's leg," Keding said. "The kid came out of a trance, and Traveler looked up as if to say, 'Humans are so hard to train.'"

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Willy Claflin talked about his childhood musical experience at the Storytelling Festival Saturday in downtown Cape Girardeau. A video excerpt is available at semissourian.com.

Keding later learned from the teacher that that was the first time the child had smiled since he lost his twin brother in a farming accident.

Martin said that when he and co-producer Joel Rhodes visited the national festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., two years ago to get an idea of what to offer, they weren't expecting much. Instead, "we got blown away," he said.

From that visit, they decided to recruit Keding, Willy Claflin, Donald Davis and Sheila Kay Adams.

"With one opportunity to make a first impression, we knew we couldn't do it without quality people," he said.

Festival enthusiasts Linda and Steve Chapman of Cape Girardeau said the event was "more relaxed" than the national festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., which they've attended for three years. The Tennessee festival grew from an audience of 27 people listening to storytellers on a front porch to an event where 12,000 people descend on a town of 1,000. Linda Chapman said she thought the local festival was doing well with four of the country's top storytellers at its first event.

Organizers already have ideas for next year's festival. More tents, for starters.

"There are ways of building on the festival with little expense," Martin said. "For instance, an October ghost storytelling event."

Martin said he thought the storytelling event was important because "we're so busy making a living, we fail to really live life."

Connecting with neighbors and the sense of community that fosters is being lost because of such things as air conditioning and the Internet, he said.

"The storytelling festival is a great family event that offers an opportunity to shift gears," he said.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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