Storytelling festival organizers using networking sites, volunteers to spread word

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Though Cape Girardeau will hold its third storytelling festival this year, organizers still trying to fight the perception that it's for children.

With less than a month to go before the festival, Stephanie Lynch, director of public relations and marketing for the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, is trying to define the event clearly, especially to young adults.

"They see the word 'storytelling,' and they think that the festival is going to be a bunch of people reading from children's books," she said. "That's not a storytelling festival."

The festival will take place April 9, 10 and 11.

This year, Lynch is getting the word out with grassroots marketing and the help of volunteers and interns. She uses a blog, a Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed to spread the word about the festival. She hopes to increase the attendance by college students and young families.

According to Lynch, around 100 people are involved with the planning and promoting of the festival this year.

Lynch, also a member of the Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival committee, said Cape Girardeau's storytelling festival is simply good entertainment, no different from seeing a comedian or one-man or one-woman show.

She said professional tellers perform their personal stories about their roots, families and lives on stage.

"Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they are sad. Sometimes they're quirky or make you think about something that's happened to you in your own life," she said.

The challenge, she said, is to encourage people to come out and experience it for themselves.

"It's one of those things that if you've never experienced, it is difficult to truly understand, because most people do not associate storytelling with performance. ... In a sense, a storyteller performs a film, only you aren't looking at a screen, you see it in your mind."

For the price of a movie, popcorn and soda, Lynch said the audience can spend an entire weekend enjoying some of the most interesting and entertaining stories around.

According to Lynch, storytelling festivals are popular nationwide, such as in California, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, where the largest festivals attract upward of 10,000 people.

This year's festival includes the "Swapping Ground," which provides anyone who signs up the opportunity to tell their own story before an audience. It also hosts free digital story recordings offered by WSIU FM Carbondale, which allows anyone to sign up to record a tale at its booth. The best stories will be aired on WSIU FM radio.

Tickets are now on sale through the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau. To purchase tickets and for more information, call the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-777-0068 or visit the website capestorytelling.com.

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