Preparing for Storyfest in the Park on May 4 at Dogwood Park are, from left, Cindy Putman, 2018 Amateur Storyfest Competition winner; Rick Woods, Cookeville Leisure Services director and event emcee; Laura Wolf, City Scape executive director; Ashley McKee, Cookeville museums education specialist; Judy Duke, Storyfest founder; Beth Thompson, Cookeville museums manager and Storyfest coordinator; Chad McDonald, Cookeville Leisure Services cultural arts superintendent and Cookeville Arts Council member; Barbara Walton, Friends of the Cookeville History Museum; Peggy Fragopoulos, Storyfest ambassador; and Ricky Shelton, Cookeville mayor.
EVENT: Sixth annual Storyfest in the Park
DATE & TIME: May 4, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Dogwood Park, 30 E. Broad St., Cookeville
CONTACT: Cookeville History Museum, 931-520-5455
COOKEVILLE – Look for the big tent on May 4 at Dogwood Park and have a seat.
Then listen, laugh, maybe even cry a little, during the sixth annual Storyfest in the Park, a free event from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. that features professional storytellers from throughout the region.
“Storyfest is a magical day,” Beth Thompson, Cookeville museums manager and Storyfest coordinator, said. “I’ve tried for the past five years to describe it to people and have failed time and time again. The best thing I can say is, come try it – I promise you’ll love it. Money back guarantee!”
This year’s headliners include nationally known storytellers Connie Regan-Blake of Asheville, North Carolina, and Andy Offutt Irwin of Covington, Georgia. Both are newcomers to Storyfest. Also taking the stage will be Peggy Fragopoulos of Cookeville, Kathleen Mavournin of Maryville and Janice Brooks-Headrick of Sevierville.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to bring all-new headliners to Storyfest,” Thompson said. “Connie and Andy are leaders in their field. Plus, we’ll have storytellers from the Smoky Mountain Storytelling Association as well as from right here in the Upper Cumberland.”
Storyfest will also include its second Amateur Storyfest Competition, which will feature eight local storytellers vying for cash prizes and bragging rights. A few openings remain and will be filled on a first-come, first served basis. Anyone interested should call Thompson at 528-8570.
“Last year, the amateur competition was a huge audience favorite,” Thompson said.
Storyfest is sponsored by CityScape, Cookeville Arts Council, Tennessee Arts Commission, First National Bank, Friends of the Cookeville History Museum and City of Cookeville Department of Leisure Services and Public Facilities.
The schedule is as follows:
- 9:30 a.m. – Peggy Fragopoulos
- 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – Kathleen Mavournin
- 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – Janice Brooks-Headrick
- 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. – Connie Regan-Blake
- Noon and 3:30 p.m. – Andy Offutt Irwin
- 1 p.m. – Amateur Storyfest Competition
About the storytellers:
Connie Regan-Blake has performed at the nation’s top folk music and storytelling festivals in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. On stage, she “generates brightness and warmth, drawing in listeners with her humor and Southern charm,” her website says. Her stories range from hilarious traditional Appalachian Mountain tales to poignant true-life drama. As a founding board member of the National Storytelling Association and a frequent host and featured performer at the National Festival in Jonesborough, she helped ignite and shape the American storytelling revival.
Andy Offutt Irwin, with his silly putty voice and hilarious, heart-filled stories, is a one-person-showman. He is described as “equal parts mischievous schoolboy and the Marx Brothers, peppered with a touch of the Southern balladeer,” according to his website. Every show includes original songs and whistling. He is a favorite of the Teller-in-Residence Program at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough and has been a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival numerous times. He is also an award-winning children’s performer.
Peggy Fragopoulos: Storytelling comes naturally to Fragopoulos, as she has taught public school for 44 years and is on her 38th year teaching on the collegiate level. She has told stories at the Swapping Ground in Jonesborough and authored “That’s the Truth If I Ever Told It,” a bio on Bashful Brother Oswald, a Grand Ole Opry legend, and recently published a book of motivational thoughts for the day. She has participated in Storyfest each year.
Janice Brooks-Headrick is a storyteller, performance artist and instigator. The Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association member has created opportunities to perform and produced festivals and events from New York to North Carolina since 1983. Her specialties include ghost stories, heartfelt tales and traditional and historic myths.
Kathleen Mavournin is a professional storyteller who recounts traditional stories from around the world, piquing the interest of folks of all ages and backgrounds. She is part of the Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association.
Dogwood Park’s concession stand will be open during the event.
“We are planning a beautiful day for Storyfest,” Thompson said. “Pull up a chair, sit back and be entertained by some of the best storytellers this country has to offer.”
Thompson also noted that openings remain for the newest feature of Storyfest – storytelling workshops for adults and children led by headliners Regan-Blake and Irwin. Those workshops will be held at Cookeville First United Methodist Church on May 3, the Friday before the main event.
The adult workshops are $25 each or $40 for both. To register, go to www.cpactn.com. The children’s workshops are free, but participants must pre-register by calling the Cookeville History Museum at 931-520-5455. Space is limited.