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Ocoee Story Festival
February 1 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Everyone loves a good story, whether it be a tall tale or a local legend. The Cleveland Storytelling Guild is at the pinnacle of tale telling in town, but on Feb. 1, it’s bringing in a nationally-known teller to entertain and intrigue residents for its 24th annual Ocoee Story Fest.
While the event is a collaboration between the Allied Arts Council, Cleveland Storytelling Guild and Museum Center at Five Points, the spotlight will be on a lone storyteller, Kim Weitkamp.
For other events such as Tellabration and Warm Stories & Hot Cider, local storytellers take the stage, but for Ocoee Story Fest, a single, normally well-known person is brought in to entertain attendees. The teller also visits numerous area schools in the days leading up to the event, which gets children involved and interested in storytelling. Adam Booth was last year’s teller.
Storytelling Guild chair Judy Baker says that not just anyone can be the teller for Ocoee Story Fest, because the teller must first impress the guild’s members.
“We’d never had Adam Booth before last year, but he’d been recommended by another teller we know. So, I went online and listened to him and I didn’t even have to listen to the whole story to know I wanted him as our teller. The same is true of Kim Weitkamp for this year,” Baker said.
Weitkamp served as teller many years ago when she was new to storytelling, and Baker says the guild simply took a chance on her and was very happy it did, as Baker later described Weitkamp as “delightful.”
The school visits will begin on Wednesday, Jan. 30, with Weitkamp visiting two schools on Wednesday, two on Thursday and having two functions at one school Friday, leading up to Ocoee Story Fest. The visits are funded by the Allied Arts Council, and are meant to engage young students and get them interested in storytelling, but most importantly, in art.
Weitkamp is a singer and songwriter in addition to being a storyteller. During her first visit, she was so encouraged by the warm reception she got from Black Fox Elementary that she made it a point to return and recorded two award-winning CDs at the school: the children’s CD and a general audience CD.
According to her website, she speaks to tens of thousands of people each year. For over a decade, she’s specialized in turning life lessons into funny presentations meant to entertain, enlighten and educate.
She was also the recipient of the Toastmasters Leadership and Communication Award, an honor given once a year to a former member who has gone to experience great success in leadership and communication.
Weitkamp has numerous CDs for sale, which includes her typical stories as well as an entire CD of scary stories as well.
Ocoee Story Fest was started by some of the Storytelling Guild’s original members, including the late Sylvia Idom, who served as the first event chair. Baker actually served alongside Idom and learned how the event operated before taking over when Idom moved away.
Numerous storytelling events are standalone, and not associated with larger, national events like Tellabration is.
“We’re probably the second longest running storytelling festival, because so many others have come and gone,” Baker said.
She explained how Ocoee Story Fest is much more intimate than larger events, and cited how attendants can simply walk up to tellers and talk to them after the show, while at bigger functions the tellers are quickly ushered out.
The event will also serve as an opportunity for the community to experience something different.
“Some people will go to this and be inspired to go home and tell their own stories to their kids and grandkids. The main thing is to just put all your worries aside and relax as you get drawn into your imagination,” Baker said.
Ocoee Story Fest begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1 at the Museum Center. Admission costs $5, with a $15 family-maximum charge. Tickets can only be purchased at the door.
For more information, contact Baker at 423-479-7887, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Weitkamp’s website is www.kimweitkamp.com. The Cleveland Storytelling Guild meets the second Tuesday of each month in the community room at 7 p.m. These meetings are open to the public.
Cleveland Daily Banner