Take time to sit a spell

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Slow down, you're going too fast. You need a change of pace. You need to discover the joy of storytelling. You need to sit a spell ... to listen, learn and laugh ... while tale-spinners and songsters "lighten your soul" and "put a tingle in your heart."

And, ladies and gentlemen, the good news is that such an opportunity exists right here at home. The occasion is the 11th annual Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival, an award-winning song and storyfest which will take place Friday and Saturday, June 8 and June 9, in downtown McCook.

The people of the Golden Plains are fortunate this year to have a storyteller of Bill Harley's caliber coming to town as the Buffalo Commons headliner. Bill is a Grammy award-winner who has been called a "Garrison Keillor for Kids."

For McCook purposes, the storyteller was "discovered" in 2005 when three teachers from here attended the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tenn. Mary Dueland, Linda Crandall and Lynda Baumbach observed many outstanding performers at the massive festival, but they were most impressed with the talents and accomplishments of Harley, an author, playwright, musician and storyteller from Seekonk, Mass.

Regional storytelling fans will get a chance to see why Friday and Saturday as Harley will be appearing at five different venues during the two-day and two-night McCook show. He will be at the college at 1 o'clock. Friday afternoon, at the historic Fox Theater at 7:30 Friday evening, at the High Plains Museum Saturday morning at 10, at the Kids Fest at Norris Park Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and at the historic Fox for the concluding event Saturday night at 7:30.

That's a show in itself. But there's more, much more, at this year's Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival. The Wells Family, regarded as one of the top bluegrass bands in the nation, will be making appearances throughout the festival. The band, noted for versatility, not only plays bluegrass, but also gospel, country, folk, Americana and pop.

And, as an added attraction this year, the Buffalo Commons festival will be tying in with McCook's 125th birthday celebration. Three eminent local storytellers -- Merrill Ream, Mary Ellen Goodenberger and Cloyd Clark -- will lead a session Saturday at 12:30 at the Bieroc Cafe called "Living Close to the Bone." In the session, stories about yesteryear's farmers, railroaders, shopkeepers and roustabouts will be featured.

Oldtime stories, including ones about butter-making by Grandma,will be shared at the Kids Fest. "This is one of the festival's best events," said Mary Dueland, the festival director. "We read and tell stories, then do activities." There will be three 20-minute sessions for the kids, starting at 1:30 p.m. at Norris Park. To get the most out of the experience, Dueland urges kids and their parents to be there at 1:30 sharp.

Because of the success of the Buffalo Commons event, McCook has been declared the Storytelling Capital of Nebraska. Come see why. Join Master of Ceremonies Cal Siegfried and the rest of the Buffalo Commons crew as they present two days and two nights of toe-tapping, tale-spinning fun.

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