CLEARFIELD - "Listeners are very important," said Laurie Allen, creator and organizer of the Clearfield Storytelling Festival now in its seventh year. "Otherwise the tellers would have nothing to do."
Allen said she was inspired to start the festival because she is a storyteller herself and knows the art of storytelling is a good way to build community.
"I think it's getting to be more important," Allen said of her art. "Everyone plugs in and we're losing that personal touch. This is a very personal art."
Allen said storytelling is a very unique kind of shared experience. Unlike reading stories in books, Allen said listening to storytellers makes an audience feel like they know the storyteller him or herself. Allen said she has told stories in front of large crowds and afterward has had people approach her as if they've been lifelong friends.
"It's a good art to introduce people to," said Allen.
The first storyteller to perform on Saturday night at the Clearfield Community Arts Center, was Wayne Kartchner from Farmington. Kartchner entertained the audience with a very funny and unique combination of two examples of "classic literature" in Kartchner's mind: Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater and Hey Diddle Diddle.
"I have six kids and eighteen grandkids. You have to tell stories," Kartchner said. "I tell funny stories and serious stories. But, I like the serious ones better."
Apparently his fellow storytellers, half of which were youth, didn't agree as their stories drew laughs and snickers from the crowd.
Kyle Housley, a ninth grade student at Sunset Junior High, delivered a very animated rendition of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service, complete with wild gestures and different voices for different characters. Stephen Gashler, a local author, did the same with his very funny version of an African folktale called "The Devil and the Angel."
"It was a hot day down in H E double hockey sticks," said Gashler, drawing laughs with his first sentence. "It was always a hot day down in H E double hockey sticks."
Gary Hansen, President of the Farmington Chapter of the Utah Storytelling Guild, said storytellers either create their own tales or put their own twists into well-known stories.
"I put my own twist into each of the stories," Hansen, who often uses a Native American flute in his storytelling, said. "I put my own style into the story. Otherwise storytellers would be worried about copyright infringement."
As each of the storytellers proved on Saturday night, storytelling isn't just about reading a story aloud. Much like telling a good joke, or a good lie, delivery, timing, voice, and the ability to make your audience believe that you believe what you're telling them are crucial to the art of storytelling.