Special to the Bee-Picayune
For the 25th consecutive year, on the first Saturday in November (Nov. 2), stories will come to life around the Live Oak County square in downtown George West.
Since the first festival in 1989, Storyfest has grown from a few storytellers and a few musical entertainers performing on two small outdoor stages to 13-15 storytellers and seven to eight musical groups performing on three stages under tents that seat 350-500 each — all in one day.
Over the years, the committee has added the now-famous Little Red Wagon Parade, a living history element, a classic car show, a 5K Fun Run, and more — including the Texas State Liars’ Contest — making Storyfest a festival like no other. George West Storyfest is the second-oldest storytelling festival and the largest storytelling festival in the Southwest.
Those familiar with Storyfest will notice a schedule change this year. Traditionally, Storyfest invites three featured storytellers and a number of other storytellers, including cowboy storytellers and poets, usually mixing in new tellers with audience favorites. However, in an effort to acknowledge what has made Storyfest a success over the years, organizers have decided to invite only storytellers and other performers who have performed at Storyfest at some time — and often times — during the first 24 years of the festival. The performances by these performers and others have been crucial to the success and popularity of Storyfest. Of course, organizers would have preferred to invite back all of the storytellers, musical groups, etc., but squeezing that many performers into an already-full one-day event simply is not possible.
Storytellers returning to Storyfest this year include Mark Babino, MaryAnn Blue, John Campbell, Decee Cornish, Eldrena Douma, Elizabeth Ellis, James Ford, Donna Ingham, Andy Offutt Irwin, Mary Grace Ketner, Bil Lepp, Tom McDermott, Biscuits O’Brien, Sheila Starks Phillips, Gayle Ross, Consuelo Samarippa, Larry Thompson and Tim Tingle. Both Ellis and Ross were featured storytellers at the first Storyfest in 1989. This year Storyfest will have an entire lineup of featured storytellers.
Live music will again span a variety of genres, including traditional cowboy music, country, ’50s & ’60s rock ’n’ roll, bluegrass, conjunto, gospel and more. Groups and singer/songwriters include Lonestar Bluegrass Band, Andy Wilkinson and Andy Hedges, Gil Prather and Brady Bowen, Riptide, Chano Cadena y sus Conjunto, Owen Temple, Pake Rossi, The McCalls, South Texas Grass Roots, Grady Lee, the Brush Country Music Jamboree Band and the Brush Country Cowboy Church Cloggers. As with the storytellers, all of these performers have played or danced at least once at Storyfest over the first 24 years.
The United Freestyle Stunt Team returns to WOW festival-goers with their BMX stunts. The Texas Jr. Anglers once again bring their Catch Tank to the festival for children of all ages to catch live fish in a catch-and-release experience.
As part of the celebration, Storyfest will have a laser show for the very first time. The show will begin approximately 7:35 p.m. in front of the Dobie/West Performing Arts Theatre, directly across from the courthouse.
And all of this entertainment remains free! Storyfest charges no admission to experience all of this top-quality entertainment. While some festivals that start out charging no admission begin charging at some point, Storyfest prides itself on continuing to provide quality entertainment to people from all walks of life without charging admission.
For those interested in dancing after the storytelling, Gary P. Nunn, who performed at the Storyfest Street Dance in 1996 and 1997, returns to help celebrate the 25th anniversary. Street dance tickets are only $10 and will be available at the gate. Nunn will start at 9 p.m. and play until midnight.
Storyfest has, indeed, put George West on the map, so to speak. The Texas Legislature has even recognized George West as the Storytelling Capital of Texas because of the community’s efforts not only to perpetuate and promote the art and tradition of storytelling but also to produce an event that successfully does so.
In addition to the three outdoor stages, the newly remodeled theater in George West, renamed the Dobie/West Performing Arts Theatre, will be utilized more this year to accommodate the increase in performers. Of course, the ghost stories concert held there on Saturday evening and the Sacred Stories concert hosted by the First United Methodist Church on Sunday morning will still be on the schedule.
For more information, visit the Storyfest website at www.georgeweststoryfest.com. For up-to-the minute Storyfest news, “Like” George West Storyfest Association Inc. on Facebook.