Buffalo Commons Storytelling, Music Festival returns for 27th year June 14-16

Friday, June 7, 2024

McCOOK, Neb. — The 27th annual Buffalo Commons Storytelling and Music Festival is returning with new tours, storytellers, and exhibits for this year’s festival.

The 2024 edition of the festival will welcome Paul Strickland, a renowned storyteller who has been a new voice at the National Storytelling Festival and performed at multiple other renowned storytelling events. The featured musical act will be Stillhouse Junkies, a Durango, Colorado-based group that has made their name in the bluegrass genre. Another featured artist will be Lucas Kotschwar, a member of the McCook Arts Council

Mary and Dale Dueland have helped expand the festival from solely oratory storytelling to include other featured artists in the festival.

“We started off as a storytelling festival, and then we decided that stories could be told through music.

“From there we actually added poetry, because when you’re telling a poem, there’s usually a story to it. Most recently in the last few years we added visual art, because we recognized that there’s a story behind every painting, and we started inviting painters and other visual artists,” Mary Dueland said.

The Duelands have been with the festival for 25 of its 27 years and have seen the event grow and attract more people and bigger and better talent, as well as more diverse acts and exhibitions for the festival.

“We have always drawn national storytellers; we’ve always brought in nationally touring music. So, it’s not just storytelling, its great talent, we always say that if we get you here once you’ll come back.” Mary Dueland said.

“People hear storytelling, and they think it’s just fairytales, folktales, stuff like that, but its tales about life’s experiences. It’s a way to keep our heritage and culture alive here in McCook.”

The festival has managed to garner a core audience that returns and brings in people from around the state to see their favorite acts.

“We’ve built this loyal local or regional audience so our Friday night show at the Fox, a few hundred people will show up and see national caliper acts. It’s expensive to bring bands from all the way out in Virginia or something, but we still try to get the best acts possible,” Dale Dueland said.

The community and organization of the festival is something that the talent and festivalgoers both recognize.

“We don’t have a problem getting them to come out as long as their schedule permits. I think it’s also the experience we give them while they’re here, not just the committee, but the community. They find out what an interesting community this is with the arts and how friendly everybody is,” Mary Dueland said.

The festival also serves as a reminder of the history and abundance of experiences available locally.

“We find that people that live here often dream about what they can do in Denver or Omaha or Lincoln, but the fact of the matter is there’s some really interesting stuff right here,” Dale Dueland said.

This year’s tour is a stained glass tour, which will take participants to places like St. Katherine’s hospital, and St. John’s Lutheran church in rural McCook, and other communities with stained glass displays in the area.

“They don’t have to travel that far to do something. This is an event that exposes that. The Friday tour event for example, it’s just a deeper dive and investigation into the other storied history that has happened here over the years, we just try to think of something that the generations of people here have forgotten.”

The organizers feel the uniqueness of the event is something that keeps people returning and draws the acts that are featured.

“The way we put this event together, it’s not something that’s been patterned after. We’ve kind of just figured out the things we enjoyed is what we would incorporate at the festival.

“The people we’ve had here have connections or have impacted things on a national scale, so if we can bring that to McCook, the idea is that you don’t have to live in Denver or Omaha to accomplish something, you can do that in McCook, Nebraska,” Dale Dueland said.

The Festival features events June 14-16, with three events requiring tickets, which are available for purchase on buffalocommons.org

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: