FARMINGTON — Giving popular performer John Lithgow a run for his money, 11-year-old Avery Palic held a gathering of more than 100 children in the palm of her hand with a delightful rendition of the infectious children's classic, "The Runaway Pancake."

"No, no. No, no, no. I'm too fast; you're too slow. Pan, pan, patty-cake pan, I got away from Auntie May, I got away from Old Dog Tray, I can get away from you, I can!" Palic hollered to great cheers and applause.

Palic was part of the Four Corners Storytelling Festival, a free, two-day event that kicked off Friday in Berg Park.

Delighted crowds of San Juan County residents strolled from tent to tent to enjoy a bounty of sweet serenades, tall tales, banjo-backed yodels and yarns.

"Sometimes I get nervous," Palic admitted, "but mostly I have fun."

In her second year with the festival, the Koogler Middle School pupil credits her older brother, Gunnar, for getting her into the act.

Children storytellers drew some of the biggest howls of laughter and thunderclaps of applause.

Flo Trujillo, youth services coordinator for the Farmington Public Library, believes the more storytelling kids can do, the more they will likely accomplish in life.

"We have been doing youth storytelling since 2001," she said. "The kids learn so much: how to stand up in front of a live mic, how to hold the attention of an audience, how to project their voice and how to build confidence."

One beneficiary of Trujillo's mentorship is Samantha Dewess, 14. In her sixth year participating in the festival, Samantha has developed a strong connection with one particular children's author, Robert Munsch.

"I actually read and retold his stories so much that I finally wrote to him," she said. "I got an autographed copy of one of my favorite books of his, Mortimer's Song.'"

Samantha's 9-year-old sister, Kaitlyn, did not want to be left out of all the fun her older sister was having.

"I really like that you can make so many different noises and sounds that make people laugh and smile," she said.

This is her second year storytelling.

Ben Kelly, 11, lit up the youthful audience with an inspired and dramatically exaggerated retelling of Lois G. Grambling's "Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom? Can I? Please!?"

Asked why he chose Grambling's story for his performance, Kelly cited his mother.

"My mom said it would get a lot of laughs," he said. "And I really found out that I enjoy making people laugh."

Trujillo said the youths take to storytelling in little time.

"Many of these kids start out a little nervous at first," she said, "but they quickly take over so I give the tent to them. Pretty soon, they act as MCs, introducing themselves and their peers. It's leadership, plain and simple."

Trujillo sees the benefit from the dozen years of workshops she coordinates and leads at the library.

"Many of our kids have been recognized, at storytelling festivals nearby in Taos and at one in Jonesborough, Tenn.," Trujillo said.

The festival continued with bedtime and ghost stories at the Totah Theater Friday night, with more events planned Saturday. For more information, go to the Farmington Public Library's website at infoway.org.