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The event is staged each year by the Farmington Public Library

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FARMINGTON — More than two dozen people gathered in a tent on Saturday afternoon at Berg Park to listen to a man with dreadlocks wearing African-style clothes tell a story about a witch who challenged a little girl to learn her name by sunrise the next day. If the little girl failed, the witch would eat her.

This was one of the stories Len Cabral told during the annual Four Corners Storytelling Festival.

Cabral was one of five professional storytellers who attended the festival, which is put on each year by the Farmington Public Library.

Library Director Karen McPheeters said most children have stories told to them from a very young age.

“Storytelling’s an important part of literacy — it’s a gateway,” she said.

It’s not uncommon for people in the audience to remember something from their past or to relate to the story. That is part of what makes storytelling festivals popular, she said.

Laura McHenry, the children’s librarian at the Cortez Public Library in Colorado, travels to Farmington every year to hear stories.

“I think storytelling festivals are addicting,” she said.

The Four Corners Storytelling Festival brings in a diversity of tellers from bilingual Spanish-English storyteller Joe Hayes and cowboy poet Sid Hausman to Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason and folk storyteller Cabral.

Cabral is an African American storyteller who presents a wide array of folk tales from Africa, the Caribbean and Cape Verde, where his grandfather worked as a whaler prior to immigrating to the United States. He got started as a storyteller while working at a daycare, where he cared for 15 toddlers.

“That will make you a storyteller,” he said.

That led him to becoming a professional storyteller, which he has been doing for about 38 years.

“Telling stories is a way to connect one another,” he said.

He added “storytelling helps build communities.”

In a nearby tent, Susan O’Halloran told stories from United States history, such as the story of John Price -- a runaway slave who was caught in Oberlin, Ohio, and was going to be returned to slavery in Kentucky because of the Fugitive Slave Act. The residents of Oberlin teamed up to rescue Price, and 37 of his rescuers were later because of that act of defiance.

“I love to tell this story because these are the kind of people we come from,” O’Halloran told the audience.

She said people need to understand history to know how to behave “in order to make the world a better place after we leave here.”

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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