Storytelling at its best on tap this weekend

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Through the years, the Buffalo Commons Festival has featured a series of outstanding storytellers, starting with Nebraska's own Roger Welsch in 1997 and continuing each year with some of the top tale-tellers in the nation. But, as talented as the storytellers might be, there is widespread agreement that the best of all -- the master of the art of good, old-fashioned American storytelling -- is Donald Davis from the southern Appalachian mountains of North Carolina.

We bring the acclaim to your attention because this Friday and Saturday in McCook, the featured storyteller at the Buffalo Commons Festival will be none other than Donald Davis.

"He's riveting," says Cloyd Clark, the co-chair of the 2004 festival and one of the festival's originators in 1997. "I heard him tell a story once about riding a mule down the Grand Canyon. It absolutely cracked me up. I could hardly stop laughing."

What makes Davis so good is that he just tells stories ... in an old-time, southern drawl kind of way. "So many of today's storytellers come out of the theatrical school," Clark said, "but not Davis. He just tells the story and lets the emotions -- be they belly laughs or heart-felt tears -- fall where they may."

As Davis himself tells it, "I didn't learn stories. I just absorbed them."

You can hear him for yourself Friday night when he appears as the headliner at the "The Way The West Had Fun" program at the historic Fox Theater. The Friday night program, starting at 7:30 p.m., will also feature Rodney James and the Blue Flames, the Jumpin' Jive Cats and Gene Morris giving the Plains Perspective.

On Saturday morning, a new festival feature -- a Classic Car Show -- will debut on Norris Avenue. Then, at 9 a.m., Davis will spin a yarn to launch the Saturday morning program at the High Plains Museum. That will be at 9 a.m. Next, at 10 a.m., will come a discussion about the early days of Nebraska television. Featured panelists will be three Nebraska television pioneers: Jack McBride of Nebraska ETV, Leta Powell Drake of KOLN-KGIN-TV and Moe Milliken of KHOL-TV in Holdrege.

Following the panel, the festival will move to the Fox stage, where the Jumpin' Jive Cats will give jitterbug and Lindy hop lessons, beginning at 11 a.m.

In the afternoon, starting at 1 p.m., there will be a program at the park. Activities start with a Kids' Fest, and continue at 2 o'clock with a tale by Davis and at 2:30 p.m. with an appearance by the Youthful Yarnspinners. Rodney James and the Blue Flames and the Jumpin' Jive Cats will close out the afternoon program at the park at 3 p.m.

To bring the festival to a rousing conclusion, there will be a Grand Reception at the McCook Memorial Auditorium, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Donald Davis, the Blue Flames and the Jive Cats will join for the program, then the show will wrap up with a dance contest and Classic Car Show Awards.

To enjoy storytelling at its best right here at home, take part in the 2004 Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival this Friday and Saturday in McCook, Nebraska, USA.

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