Musicians, story telling highlight annual festival

Published 11:59 pm Saturday, October 4, 2008

The 30th annual Tale Telling Festival will be enjoyed Oct.10-11 beginning at 7 p.m. each evening.

Swappin’ Ground begins at 5:30 p.m., with both events held in Pickard Auditorium. And now, a little history is in order:

On the 11th day of September, in the year of our Lord 2001, the daily lives of the people of America changed, perhaps forever. With that change came small inconveniences and great disruptions, particularly in the families whose members were being called to military service. One of the more immediate changes in Selma affected the National Guard Armory, which was closed to all but military personnel. As a result, the 23rd annual Alabama Tale Tellin’ Festival, scheduled there for Friday and Saturday, was moved to Pickard Auditorium.

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The place of the annual Tale Tellin’ Festival remains at Pickard. And in the autumn of each year tall tales, legends, fables and folklore in cherished American tradition return, preserved by those who began the Festival.

Twenty-one years ago a handful of Selma women gathered around a small wooden table in the Old Town kitchen of Probate Judge Bernard Reynolds and Mrs. Reynolds, known to Selmians as “Ms. Bee,” to enjoy Lula’s homemade soup and cornbread, and to discuss adding another brick in the foundation of the town’s growing tourism industry. One of those women was then Selma Public Library Director Pat Blalock. Another was Kathryn Windham, news reporter and successful author, whose reputation as a teller of tales was growing rapidly. It had been at her urging that the Reynolds accompanied her to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, one of her new interests.

It was Ms. Bee’s experience at the magical world of story telling that captured the imagination of the women around the kitchen table. And it was her energetic approach to organizing Selma’s own tale telling festival that sparked its birth.

The first event piggy-backed on Riverfront Market, setting up on an unused loading platform at the side of one of Water Avenue’s old warehouses, with the only seating a grassy bank in Lafayette Park. Their hopes high for attendance of perhaps a hundred, the kitchen table committee was stunned at the response.

Hundreds came, laughed, wiped a tear or two, enjoyed, and on that chill autumn evening in October, the Alabama Tale Tellin’ Festival was born.

Selma’s own Kathryn Tucker Windham needs no introduction. An internationally known teller of tales, she is equally as celebrated in photography and as an author, whose published collections of ghost stories and tales of growing up Southern are cherished around the world.

A graduate of Huntingdon College, she was Alabama’s first female crime reporter. Her tale telling came from her childhood in Thomasville and became a profession as she researched for her books. She is the recipient of numerous awards, is a popular feature on National Public Radio and has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the National Storytelling Association. On Friday and Saturday evening she will be on stage, welcoming friends and telling tales.

Dolores Hydock will be on stage for the Festival, introducing a swirl of characters in funny, affectionate stories of everyday life. Her repertoire includes medieval adventures and tales of magic and mystery of ancient wisdom. She has been featured at the National Story Telling Festival and has five award winning recordings of original stories.

Donald Davis was born in a Southern Appalachian mountain world, into a family of traditional storytellers. He was reared on fairy tales, Jack tales, scary mountain lore, ancient Welsh and Scottish folktales and true-to-life stories of his kin. He is a prolific author, producer of books and a guest host of National Public Radio’s Good Evening. He is also a recipient of Storytelling Circle of Excellence Award.

The Dill Pickers, an entertainment group from Birmingham, got their start as the cast and band of a theatre production called “Smoke on the Mountain. They accompany themselves with string band instruments, including guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, string bass and piano.

Their music includes bluegrass, old time string band and show tunes. Members are Theresa McKibben, Lesli Senn, Stewart Jackson, Scott Stewart, Kneeland Wright and Norton Dill.

Admission to Tale Tellin’ is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger.