Front Porch Storytelling Festival

by Staff
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Photos by Shannon Wells

FLORENCE– “If history were taught in the form of stories,” British author and poet Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “it would never be forgotten.”

The University of North Alabama celebrates the rich, colorful, age-old tradition of “tale-telling” and “yarn-spinning” as the third annual UNA Front Porch Storytelling Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, on the UNA campus.

“The front porch we fondly remember – or imagine – as a place to gather and listen to stories isn’t necessarily a physical place,” noted festival chair Debbie Chaffin, UNA’s director of educational technology services.

“Our first two festivals were held outside in our beautiful Memorial Amphitheatre,” Chaffin explained, “but Alabama in May can get very warm – so this year we’re moving inside for telling during the day.”

story telling fest 2

Photos by Shannon Wells

All daytime activities – showcasing a world-class array of guest storytellers starting at 9 a.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday – will be presented in the Performance Center on the top floor of the Guillot University Center. The “Olios” – collections of varied selections by all the guest storytellers – will still take place at the Amphitheatre at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“The Shoals is well-known for presenting first-class festivals and cultural events,” Chaffin remarked. “We have the W.C. Handy Music Festival, the Helen Keller Festival, the Alabama Renaissance Faire and so many other wonderful events that offer ideal entertainment for the entire family.

“Our Front Porch Storytelling Festival coincides with another major festival, Arts Alive, which takes place the same weekend in downtown Florence,” she added. “It’s a natural fit for both events – they complement one another so well.”

This year’s Front Porch Storytelling Festival will feature Alabama native, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and University of Alabama writing professor Rick Bragg (“All Over But the Shoutin,’ ” “Ava’s Man”) as special guest teller. The lineup also includes nationally renowned storytellers Donald Davis, Diane Ferlate, Dolores Hydock, Bil Lepp and Barbara McBride-Smith.

Story telling fest 3

Photos by Shannon Wells

This year’s festival will also feature a special memorial tribute to the university’s own Dr. Bill Foster, longtime chair of the UNA Department of English and a multi-talented storyteller, actor, writer, musician, linguist, folklorist and on-stage host of the first two Front Porch festivals. Foster’s daughter Melissa – who performed alongside her father in the award-winning Foster Family String Band – will host this year’s festival.

“Dr. Foster was the heart of our storytelling festival and one of its biggest champions,” Chaffin observed. “We were so sad to lose him in September of 2012, and during our opening ceremonies we plan to pay tribute to the man who was our inspiration in so many ways. Dr. Foster was a beloved figure on the UNA campus for 40 years. He cannot be replaced, but we will carry on because that is what he would want – and we’re so thrilled to have Melissa with us to follow in her father’s footsteps.”

Front Porch events also feature a “Barbecue and Bragg” casual dinner with the guest teller at 5 p.m. Friday in the Banquet Halls at the Guillot University Center. Prior to the festival, free storytelling workshops are being offered to K-12 teachers on Wednesday, May 15. Tellers will also appear at several free events throughout the area on Thursday, May 16.

Single tickets for festival events on Friday and Saturday are $25 per day for adults and $5 for students. Adults can also purchase a two-day package for $40 per person, which includes storytelling each day and Olios each evening. Tickets for Olios only are $15 per evening for adults and $5 for students. Tickets for “Barbecue and Bragg” are $35 per person or $50 per couple. Reservations are required.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 256-765-4208 or visit

~Media Release University of North Alabama, Terry Pace

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