Low attendance puzzles Cape storytelling festival organizers

Monday, April 16, 2012
Jim May tells tales Sunday, April 15, 2012 during the final day of the 5th annual Storytelling Festival in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Lower than anticipated attendance numbers at this year's Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival has the promoters scratching their heads.

Although final numbers for the weekend event were not available Sunday, Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the numbers were down significantly with around half of last year's crowd attending Friday and Saturday.

"It is not an issue of talent," said Joel Rhodes, co-producer of the event.

Four nationally-known storytellers closed out the event Sunday morning.

Jennifer Munro of Connecticut wove a tale called "All Is Vanity," a story of greed, ambition and vanity; Jim May, a storyteller from Illinois, had a humorous tale about prairie chickens; Dan Keding had a fairy tale that was another perspective on beauty and the beast; and the flying adventures of a Spartan sled were relayed by storyteller Kim Weintkamp.

The crowd applauds Jennifer Munro's tale Sunday, April 15, 2012 during the final day of the 5th annual Storytelling Festival in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

"We have a loyal core group that comes every year," Martin said. "We have attendees from 17 states, just not as many as previous years. We don't know if it's the economy or a myriad of factors."

Iva Metge and her family from Warrensburg, Mo., have come for the past three years. This year they missed Friday's sessions because of school conflicts.

"We're sad we missed Friday. Usually we take the kids out of school on Friday, but this year they had MAP tests," Metge said. "We have not been disappointed yet. I love it, it's so much fun."

Through word of mouth from their visits, she said, about 10 couples from Warrensburg attended this year's events.

"They've all been really good," said Iva's daughter Olivia, 13.

This was the second festival for Andy Leinbach, a children's librarian from Chicago who attended all three days.

"I continue to be impressed with the variety of voices [from storyteller to storyteller]," Leinbach said. "I really enjoy it."

Eileen Smith, 75, comes from Salem, N.H. Her daughter lives in Cape Girardeau and she plans her yearly vacation around the storytelling festival, she said.

"I come every year," Smith said. "I never knew storytelling could be so different. I love Cape, love my daughter. The event is absolutely fabulous."

Rhodes surmised the lower attendance may be an issue of local misperception and that education will help for next year. He said people in the area may think it is an event geared primarily toward children, which it is not. To help dispel that, an "Afternoon and Evening of Ghost Storytelling" is planned for October and an "Afternoon and Evening of Humorous Storytelling" is planned for January.

"The event has grown every year and we anticipated modest growth for this year," Rhodes said. "Our attendance from out of state has increased, but attendance from the local and surrounding communities has declined."

But some local attendees did enjoy the performances.

"This was the best one yet," said Ann Crites of Cape Girardeau. "The storytellers were great, the stories were great. I can't imagine why local people are not supporting the event."

For more information about the festival, visit www.capestorytelling.com.

Pertinent address:

Southeast Missouri State University River Campus, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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