Annual storytelling festival returns to Wilmore

Published 2:00 pm Monday, September 11, 2023

The More Tales Storytelling Festival in Wilmore will return for its fifth annual storytelling buffet, free of charge and open to the public for all ages.

This festival isn’t simply about reading from a book to an audience of people- it’s more like a blast from the past, keeping an age-old tradition alive. Co-founder Anna Bryson explains storytelling as telling folktales- real or fictional experiences passed down through generations by word of mouth. And that’s how they’re told.

Anna and her father and professional storyteller, Ed Bryson, started the festival in 2016 after moving to Wilmore and realizing the Bluegrass area needed more storytelling festivals.

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The festival starts Friday, Sept. 15, opening the two-day festival with a special Halloween-themed event called Ghost Tales, in which the festival’s four tellers will tell their own spooky ghost stories right in time for the fall season. This Friday night event starts at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.

Saturday will be the festival’s all-day extravaganza, with the four tellers telling three stories between two musical performances by the Barely Shaken String Band in the afternoon and the evening.

There will also be breaks without music or stories, and the festival organizers have booked food trucks and craft vendors to keep attendees entertained while they stretch their legs during their downtime.

“It’s very captivating; my eight-year-old, who was seven last year, loved it, he loved it. Being there and listening to the stories and being immersed in what they’re saying and where they’re leading you down this imagination hole in your brain,” Bryson said.

Each year- people travel far and wide to attend this festival. While driving to Kentucky from Chattanooga, Tennessee, one family found the More Tales flier at a rest stop. Since they were not able to go to the Jonesboro, Tennessee, storytelling festival they usually attend, the family called Bryson as soon as they found her flier, letting her know they would come back to Kentucky to listen.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook for the past few weeks from people out of state who plan to drive to Kentucky to come to this festival. People are following our page on Facebook and sending messages and phone calls. It has completely blown me away. I feel like it’s probably going to be a pretty big event this year, and it’s exciting to bring people to what I always call our little storybook town of Wilmore,” Bryson said.

Both events will take place at 210 South Lexington Avenue, with plenty of space for attendees to bring their chairs and blankets.

This year’s tellers are Bil Lepp, Paul Strictland, Laura Packer, and Stephen Hollen. They’re all professional storytellers who travel the country sharing tales for a living, making the fact that this festival is free even more special.

A little about the tellers

Lepp is an award-winning storyteller, author, keynote speaker and recording artist. He is also the host of the History Channel’s “Man vs. History Series.” He has published 28 books and audio collections, which include his beloved stories.

Strickland is a Kentucky-based storyteller and theater artist. He has more than seven hours of friends and family tales in his storytelling repertoire and has performed in many festivals in the past.

Packer is a storyteller, keynote speaker and a coach of her craft. She is based in Minnesota and was recently inducted into the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence.

Hollen is a storyteller, author, Mark Twain impersonator, medicine show impresario and a storytelling Santa.

To make the festival free of charge, its sponsors include High Bridge Spring Water, BB General Construction and Visit Jessamine.