Storyfest returning to Dogwood Park May 5

COOKEVILLE – South Carolina’s Tim Lowry has been telling stories “of the people, by the people and for the people” for 15 years.

He’ll continue that tradition as the headliner of Cookeville Leisure Services’ fifth annual Storyfest in the Park on May 5 at Dogwood Park.

“If you’ve never seen a professional storyteller, treat yourself to a wonderful day under the big tent,” Beth Thompson, Cookeville museums manager, said of the free festival to be held from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Lowry, known for his zippy historical tales and laugh-out-loud personal stories, is no stranger to Cookeville. He was part of the 2016 Storyfest lineup.

“He enthralled audiences with his hilarious and energetic brand of telling,” Thompson said. “We know how much the crowds will appreciate his return visit.”

Also taking the Storyfest stage will be Jane O. Cunningham of Georgia, Allen Dyer of Portland (formerly of Baxter) and Peggy Fragopoulos of Cookeville. In addition, music will be presented by the Tennessee Tech University Afro-Caribbean Ensemble.

The festival will also feature a new amateur storytelling competition among eight local storytellers selected on a first-come, first-served basis in early April.

“The audience will have the opportunity to enjoy 10-minute stories told by local tellers competing for cash prizes,” Thompson said, adding that judges will include Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton, Putnam County Executive Randy Porter and former Cookeville museums manager Judy Duke.

The Storyfest schedule is as follows:

  • 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. –Tennessee Tech University Afro-Caribbean Ensemble
  • 10:30 a.m. – Allen Dyer
  • 11 a.m. – Peggy Fragopoulos
  • 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. – Jane O. Cunningham
  • 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. – Tim Lowry
  • 1:30-3 p.m. – Storyfest competition

Lowry grew up in southeastern Kentucky, where he learned the art of storytelling from Appalachian folk who spun yarns and told tales to entertain, teach morals and pass along local history. In the tradition of Mark Twain, he blends historic fact and folktale with poetic language that is “refreshingly candid and deliciously sweet,” his website says. After earning a theater degree, he taught English for five years before going into full-time storytelling. He has made several TV appearances, recorded CDs, filmed a DVD and written a storytelling handbook.

Cunningham, a Mississippi native who lives in Georgia, is a Ridge and Valley Storytelling Guild member, a producer of The Big Fibbers Storytelling Festival in Rome, Georgia, and a retired teacher. She has presented story programs and workshops throughout the Southeast from Washington, D.C., to Puerto Rico.

Dyer is a humorist and storyteller, as well as an assistant principal at Portland High School. He has been active in education for more than 30 years as a vocational teacher and administrator, and storytelling is a natural part of his classroom experience. He tells tales about life and his adventures growing up in the Upper Cumberland.

Fragopolous taught public school for 43 years and is in her 34th year of teaching at the collegiate level. She is also a world traveler and author of “That’s the Truth If I Ever Told It,” a biography on Grand Ole Opry legend Bashful Brother Oswald, as well as a new book of motivational “Thoughts for the Day.” She has participated in Storyfest each year.

Storyfest will also feature food vendors and an Artists’ Alley with one-of-a-kind creations by local artists.

Thompson said Storyfest showcases the art of storytelling, which is “very different from reading a book to a child.”

“Storytelling is the oldest form of historic recordkeeping, going back to the beginning of time,” she said. “Our storytellers will entertain and enlighten you with their style of storytelling, taking you on a journey where you’ll laugh and cry and walk away with a smile feeling very glad you came.”

For more information, call the Cookeville History Museum at 931-520-5455.