Tale tellin’ festival was success

Published 10:42 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

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By Lew Gilliland

The Selma Times-Journal

ArtsRevive’s 43rd annual Tale Tellin’ Festival was deemed a success by the organization’s executive director.

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Becky Youngblood said ArtsRevive followed CDC guidelines in conducting last year’s festival, limiting attendance to about 50 people due to the pandemic. She said the audience for this year’s event was about double the 2020 total.

The 2021 festival featured storyteller Andy Irwin and music by Birmingham’s Rollin’ in the Hay on Oct. 14 at ArtsRevive.

“I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people who called it magical,” Youngblood said. “I asked every person who walked in the door, ‘Are you here for Rollin’ in the Hay or are you here for Andy?’ It was about half and half. I sat up 98 chairs, and there were very few empty chairs. I was very pleased with the turnout.”

With the pandemic continuing, Youngblood again took precautions.

“I felt like I needed to respect the fact that people are cautious and nervous,” she said. “I had 10 round tables and I had names on tables. I knew that they were in groups … so that the people you come with, you’re going to sit with. So families will be sitting together or co-workers would be sitting together.”

Youngblood was pleased with the headline acts.

Irwin was one of two storytellers, along with Sandra Hawkins, who performed in area schools last week in conjunction with the festival.

“Andy Irwin, his stories are funny. Funny is always good,” Youngblood said. “He definitely captivated the audience. I watched him take funny from kindergarten all the way through grown-up, and he did it successfully for all ages.”

Dobbins Cosby helped Youngblood book Rollin’ in the Hay. Rick Carter, lead singer, is from Selma. A graduate of Meadowview Christian, he said he enjoyed the festival.

“It was a great event in a state-of-the-art venue,” Carter said. “They were very appreciative, and being from Selma, I got to see a lot of friends. The event was well put together, very nice.”

Said Youngblood, “We’ve had bands in the past in conjunction with storytellers, but the past few years, we haven’t. I just got kind of a feeling, and this was during the pandemic, that people wanted to get out, and decided to book a band.”

Paul Garner was the emcee. Charlie Lucas did a stint on stage storytelling. Lucas was a close friend of event founder the late Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Every year, ArtsRevive invites talented storytellers and musicians from around the region to participate in the festival in downtown Selma. Leading up to the event, tellers visit local schools, sharing their stories and encouraging students to embrace their own creativity.

This year’s festival ended with organizers calling the band, Irwin and Lucas back up on stage. They sang “I’ll fly away” in honor and remembrance of Windham, who always performed the song to close the event in the past.

“It got everybody up dancing,” Youngblood said. “It was great.”

Youngblood and ArtsRevive thanked the State Council on the Arts and SouthArts for their generous support in making the event possible.

Note: The International Photography Festival will be at ArtsRevive on Nov. 4-7. The event is free. For a link to information about the event, visit the ArtsRevive website.