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Event features professional and child performers in day and evening sessions

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FARMINGTON – Storytelling is widely regarded as an ancient art, but these days, it is used mostly to lull a child to sleep or spice up a family camping trip.

“A lot of people think it’s (just) for kids, but it’s not,” Farmington Public Library Director Karen McPheeters said, explaining that it’s a skill that has a host of real-world applications that many people experience on a routine basis, even if they don’t realize it.

“Lawyers are storytellers,” she said. “Actors are storytellers. Comedians are storytellers. Preachers are storytellers.”

The library will showcase storytelling in a more traditional form this weekend when it presents the annual Four Corners Storytelling Festival at Berg Park and the Totah Theatre. The event features five professional storytellers and nine young storytellers performing during a variety of day and evening sessions.

McPheeters said the library has been staging the festival for approximately 15 years, and it remains one of the organization’s more popular events, attracting 7,500 people last year.

“The best thing about going to a storytelling festival is listening to a story and having it remind you of something you experienced when you were growing up,” she said.

McPheeters said the lineup of artists appearing at this year’s festival is exceptionally skilled at invoking that feeling.

“They have the ability to make you laugh and cry – sometimes at the same time,” she said.

New to the festival this year is Len Cabral, a veteran performer who has entertained audiences across the U.S., as well as in Ireland, Belgium, England, Wales and Austria, Amsterdam, Bali and Singapore.

“He’s got one of those deep voices, very resonant, so his stories have that depth to them,” McPheeters said.

Many longtime favorites also are featured, including New Mexico resident Joe Hayes, whose Southwestern tales spring from the Hispanic, Native American and Anglo cultures. Hayes has performed at approximately 3,000 schools and has been the resident storyteller at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe for 33 years. He also has performed in Honduras, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil.

The lineup also includes another New Mexico resident, musician Sid Hausman, whose work focuses on cowboy tales and western lore. Hausman has become a regular at the prestigious Edinburgh International Folk Festival in Scotland. He has written and illustrated three books for children, and plays a number of instruments, including the banjo, the guitar, the ukulele, the harmonica and bones.

Susan O’Halloran and Dovie Thomason will round out the roster of headliners.

Thomason is of Lakota and Kiowa Apache descent and shares many of the traditional stories she heard from her childhood. She has been featured on the BBC, NPR and PBS.

In addition to being a storyteller, O’Halloran is a writer, television personality and keynote speaker. McPheeters said O’Halloran grew up in an Irish family in Chicago and relates a number of stories from her old neighborhood. O’Halloran last appeared at the Four Corners Storytelling Festival in the late 1990s.

“All these storytellers have traveled throughout the U.S.,” McPheeters said. “Many of them are Grammy winners or award-winning authors.”

In addition to the public portion of the festival on Friday, Oct. 9, and Saturday, Oct. 10, the storytellers will be making appearances as a number of local elementary and middle schools on Thursday, Oct. 8.

One of the special attractions at the weekend event is the sessions conducted by child storytellers, McPheeters said.

“They’re fabulous,” she said.
Those who have never attended a storytelling event are in for a treat if they decide to attend the festival, McPheeters said, explaining that storytelling is an art form with a universal quality, something that can be found in every culture.

“We all have our stories,” she said.

The festival is a natural for the library, she said, describing storytelling as a gateway to literacy.

“It’s a truly enchanting event,” McPheeters said. “Every child in the audience will be totally silent listening to that person. They love quality entertainment, and that’s what they’re getting. It’s a great skill to cultivate.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

IF YOU GO

What: The Four Corners Storytelling Festival

When: Friday, Oct. 9 and Saturday, Oct. 10

Where: The River Reach Terrace at Berg Park, 400 Scott Ave. in Farmington, and the Totah Theatre, 315 W. Main St. in Farmington

Admission: Free

For more information: Call 505-599-1270 or visit infoway.org

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