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Decision to discontinue festival based on 'allocation of resources'

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FARMINGTON — Although it will present a storytelling event this weekend, the Farmington Public Library's annual Four Corners Storytelling Festival — one of the institution's largest and more popular events — will not take place this year.

Library spokeswoman Jenny Lee Ryan said the decision not to hold the festival came down to "an allocation of resources." The library is going through the process of creating a new long-range plan for the first time since 2006, and it has been hamstrung for many years by a shrinking budget, as have other city departments and entities.

Library director Karen McPheeters did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Times.

Ryan said library officials have decided to focus their attention and resources on a new event, a traveling exhibition called "Thinking Money for Kids" that will open at the facility this winter.

The library received a grant from the American Library Association and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to cover the costs of bringing the exhibition here, although the library will be responsible for providing the manpower to staff the show.

"Thinking Money for Kids" features interactive displays designed to teach children about budgeting, investing and the importance of thinking about money, Ryan said. According to the ALA website, the 1,000-square-foot exhibition is scheduled to travel to 50 libraries between 2019 and 2021.

It will be featured at the library, 2101 Farmington Ave., from Feb. 21 through March 19, 2020.

For close to 20 years, the Four Corners Storytelling Festival, traditionally held in the middle of October in large tents at Berg Park and at the Totah Theater in Farmington, has featured accomplished storytellers from the across the country who performed for hundreds of schoolchildren and adults over two day-long sessions.

The festival was downsized in 2008 and 2009 when the library's budget was slashed and city revenue declined during the Great Recession. Despite those financial issues, McPheeters told The Daily Times in 2016 that she did not want to eliminate the festival then out of a fear she would not be able to resurrect it.

Ryan said she did not know if the library would consider bringing the storytelling festival back in 2020.

In the meantime, the library will present nationally known storyteller and author Bil Lepp in an event at 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Totah Theater, 315 W. Main St. in downtown Farmington. Lepp is a five-time winner of the West Virginia Liar's Contest and the author of six books. He has become a fixture at the National Storytelling Festival, performing there 15 times.

Ryan said Lepp likely will present two 45-minute sets with a short break in between. The format is designed so that visitors to the fall art walk occurring at the same time in downtown Farmington can drop in and enjoy his presentation as they moved from gallery to gallery.

During his visit here, Lepp also will make appearances at local schools, Ryan said.

Admission to Lepp's performance is free. Visit infoway.org or call 505-599-1270.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610, or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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