In 1989, a committee of the local Chamber of Commerce wanted to bring recognition to our small, rural community. The idea of a storytelling festival came from the organization president, Rob Schneider, as he fondly remembered going to the local cafe and listening to the "old-timers" swap stories over coffee. It was felt that storytelling was a vital part of our heritage and should be passed down to future generations. A second, just as important, idea was that a venue would be created for many local and area non-profit organizations to have a major fund-raiser each year. This would be accomplished by allowing only non-profits groups to offer food and gaming booths at the festival. In a small community, it was difficult for all the various groups to raise their needed project funds by depending solely on local businesses to support them. In 2014, approximately $25,000 was paid out to various non-profit groups as a result of their participation in Storyfest.
The third, and perhaps most important goal, was to promote literacy by sending professional storytellers into local and area schools to entertain and educate young people. On the day before the festival, we now send storytellers into area school districts. There they tell stories of all types, ranging from history, folklore, legends and even some tall tales. We originally began with only two school districts and have been able to expand this program as funding has allowed. As funding allows, we would like to expand into even more schools. All of the school districts that we currently serve are in small, rural communities, many with underprivileged students that would not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the rich tradition of storytelling. Although we pay the storytellers a fee for their performance, the schools contribute nothing financially to this project. All funds for this project come from various sources, including foundation grants, corporate sponsorships and private donations.
The Storyfest Association broke off independently from the Chamber of Commerce in 1995 in order to receive their IRS 501(c) designation; however we continue to work hand-in-hand with this organization. A majority of our volunteer support comes from the members of the Chamber of Commerce. We currently have two part-time paid employees and about 20 volunteer chairmen and committee members. It takes the support and corporation of the entire community to make this festival a reality. Our town population is approximately 2500, and we draw about 8500 to the annual festival. We are proud of the fact that we charge no admission to this event, thus allowing people of any economic status the opportunity to enjoy our rich heritage of storytelling.
We are very proud of what we have accomplished in the last twenty-nine years and we look forward to being able to pass down this rich tradition for many years to come. Happy 30th Anniversary to Storyfest!