Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival attendance down

Sunday, April 15, 2012
Jennifer Munro of Madison, Conn., tells 'Abu Hasan and His Historic Fart,' to the audience at the River Campus Tent of the Cape Girardeau Story Telling Festival Friday, April 13. The festival continues Saturday and Sunday with events at the River Campus and Main Street tents. (Adam Vogler)

A turnout of about half last year's crowd at Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival has organizers rethinking their approach.

Although they represented 17 states, just 350 people purchased passes to the festival Saturday.

"We are very disappointed with the numbers this year," said Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We are going to take a step back and re-evaluate our format to see if we can deliver this event in a way that will draw more people."

Last year more than 630 people attended the storytelling festival, which drew an even larger crowd of 745 in 2010.

The festival began on a high note Friday morning with schoolchildren laughing at middle school English teacher and storyteller Jennifer Munro dancing on stage to the noise of a passing train.

"We have an eighth-grade dance every year at my school, and I always dance with the boys that give me the most trouble throughout the year," said Munro, who lives in Connecticut. "I'll tell you, it's definitely not pretty."

On Friday about 900 schoolchildren and 250 people who purchased passes to the storytelling festival were at the downtown tent on Main Street listening to tales about spiders, chicken hauntings and how real friends share lip gloss, even through times of stomach trouble.

"Everything is going very smoothly and everyone, no matter their age, is really enjoying it," said Jaime Clemens, a senior at Southeast Missouri State University and intern at the Cape Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The tellers are like rock stars. It surprised me, because I had heard some folks say we would have a low turnout. But our community has really come out and embraced it, along with some who actually follow these tellers around everywhere."

Jessica Carleton, a storyteller from Chicago, uses everything from props to songs and sign language to engage crowds around the country. She said she felt at home in front of the Cape Girardeau festival crowd.

"The Cape festival is really an incredible experience and an absolute joy to be a part of," Carleton said. "It actually reminds me of the national-level festivals, with all the energy and sense of community we see under these tents. And my stories are mostly geared toward children, but I look out in the crowd and see adults really getting into them."

Although the weather was cloudy and windy, those in attendance said it didn't put a damper on the fun.

"This was our first experience with the festival and it has been amazing," said Pam Wilgus, principal of Guardian Angel School in Oran, Mo. "The storytellers do such a great job of keeping the children's attention. They start out, and you think they are going in one direction with the story, but as they unravel the details they end up in an entirely different place. It's quite captivating."

Danny Bollinger, a student at Bell City, Mo., said he wanted to hear as many of the tellers as he could and would recommend the festival to anyone.

"I've been laughing all day. One lady even scared us a little," Bollinger said. "These aren't like any stories I've ever heard. These are like movies or TV shows. I'll know I'll remember this for a long time."

On Saturday afternoon and evening, festivalgoers were able to record their own stories at a special audio booth at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus.

The festival ends today, with Munro, Jim May, Dan Keding and Kim Weitkamp performing from 10 a.m. to noon at the tent in the River Campus.

For more information, visit www.capestorytelling.com.

Staff writer Melissa Miller contributed to this report.

jsamons@semissourian.com

388-3641

Pertinent address:

Southeast Missouri State University River Campus, Cape Girardeau, MO

Main Street and William Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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