Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Timpanogos Storytelling Festival


"In the shadow of the great Mount Timpanogos, voices echo across the valley. They call out tales of triumph, tales of discovery and tales of love. They whisper memories into thousands of eager hearts who flock to them every year, hoping for a glimpse into the past or an insight into the present."


One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is listening to a great story. Utah is very lucky to have one of the the best storytelling festivals in the country. The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is held the last weekend in August each year. It just celebrated its nineteenth year and I've been to ten of the festivals and can't wait for the one next year! It is the highlight of each summer.

It started out when a woman in Orem had local tellers come to her backyard. At first they just entertained the neighborhood, but it became so popular it soon outgrew her yard and was moved to the Olmstead estate at the mouth of Provo Canyon on the Provo River.

It eventually grew so popular, attracting such large crowds, that Orem City and the sponsors built the festival its own park in Provo Canyon. Area sponsors helped finance the event which attracted some of the nation's best known storytellers who unite with other tellers, both young and old, for two all-day celebrations of music, merriment, but mostly stories.


Entrance to the new park



Stories are told in five huge tents from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. Each teller has a half hour or one hour to tell his tale. There's a half hour break between stories and an hour break for lunch. Live music and local food vendors pick up the slack between story time.

One of Five Huge "Teller" Tents

Gorgeous Setting at the foot of Mount Timpanogos

Each tent holds about 200-300 people

Always popular, Grammy award-winner Bill Harley makes you laugh 'til you cry telling about his childhood.

Although many of the stories are for children of all ages, many stories are geared to those of us with a few gray hairs. A few of my personal favorites are:

Anyone reading this must check out the websites of these fantastically talented people. They are not just storytellers. They teach, they write, they record. You hear them on the radio. They are truely my heroes.

Antonio Rocha, a remarkable mime and teller from Brazil, was new to me this year. He was amazing to watch and his tale was one of great wisdom and love. I will attempt to paraphase his story here, but of course, his expressions, actions and exact words are missing:

"One of King Solomon's head soldiers was unhappy with his job. He had risen to the highest rank, had won all the awards possible, but felt empty and bored. He went to the King to ask for a new assignment. The King told him to take six months off. "Travel the world, meet new people, see the sites," the King said. "But here is your mission. I want you to come back with something that will make a happy man sad and a sad man happy."

The soldier sailed off immediately. On the high sea, he thought about the King's words. What would make a happy man sad and a sad man happy? He helped the sailors set the sails. He felt the salty wind in his hair and breathed the ocean air. The blue sky, the sea gulls, the freedom of the sea--all made him very happy.

The soldier traveled throughout Africa, India and Asia. He met many people of different colors, speaking unusual languages, wearing brightly colored clothing. He heard wise old men tell of their lives and laughed as he watched children at play. These things made him happy.

Wise King Solomon was right. This trip was exactly what the soldier needed. He was happier than he had ever been. He learned about different cultures, ate and smelled unique foods and spices, heard extraordinary music and watched fascinating dances. These things would make a sad man happy, but surely they would not make a happy man sad! He had not found an item that would do both.

After six months, the soldier returned to his home feeling he had failed in his mission. As he walked up the street of his town, he passed a shop keeper sitting outside in the sun. "Old man," asked the soldier, "Can you please tell me if there is something in your shop that would make a happy man sad, but would also make a sad man happy?"

"Yes," replied the shop keeper, "I have exactly what you are looking for." He took the soldier into the back room of the shop and got a large chest down from a shelf. He opened the dusty old chest and inside was a smaller chest, which held an even smaller box. He handed the small box to the soldier. "I'm sure this is what you are looking for."

The soldier opened the box with great anticipation. Inside he found a gold ring. That was all. There was nothing special about the ring. No priceless jewels. Nothing. "What do you mean? I don't understand. How can this make a happy man sad and a sad man happy?" he moaned.

The shop keeper took the ring and showed the soldier what was engraved on the ring. It read simply, "THIS TOO SHALL PASS." "Think about the words, young man," whispered the old man. "A happy man will look at the ring and think 'This too shall pass, for someday I will be sad.' And if a sad man looks at the ring, he will think 'This too shall pass, for someday I will be happy.'"

The soldier presented the ring to King Solomon who smiled. "I see that your travels have made you very wise indeed. Welcome home."' [end of story]

Each year I came away from the Timp Fest a happy, wiser person. The stories thrill me to my toes. I wish I could keep listening. I want to squeeze more stories from these fabulous people! For weeks I am a happy person . . .unfortunately, this too shall pass. Round and round, just like a ring.

1 comment:

Keri(th) said...

Now this would be something worth flying back to Utah for! How unfortunate that I was never able to attend - right up my alley! Perhaps next year.