Big turnout for area storytelling festival

Whether it be UW-Eau Claire students, local residents or professional storytellers themselves, the Chippewa Valley Storytelling Festival had people from all different walks of life performing their best works this past weekend.

The festival was held in the Davies Center in Eau Claire and featured quite a few local storytellers. Among them were past and present students, as well as four professional storytellers including Tracy Chipman, Marge Loch-Wouters, Kevin McMullin and Sadarri & Co., a storytelling group from Milwaukee.

The festival was held last year as a one night event, but this year was comprised of three parts; a special Friday the 13th themed event in which all of the storytellers performed, four individual workshops from each of the professional performers Saturday and a concert on Saturday night featuring each of the four professional storytellers.
Kevin McMullin and Sadarri & Co. hosted the first workshops on Saturday afternoon. Sadarri & Co. got the audience moving using Spanish and English songs, dances, stories and games.

McMullin entertained his own audience by teaching them how to use parts of the body in music and telling stories that incorporated instruments.

Senior elementary education majors Kelli Isaacson and Nicole Sonnentag both attended McMullin’s workshop because their professor, Melissa Bruce, offered extra credit for attending the event.

“I thought it was interesting because they had music incorporated into reading and as teachers you have to find new ways to grab kids’ interest,” Isaacson said.

Sonnentag said the instruments McMullin used were cool because they weren’t that difficult to learn how to use. Both girls also planned on attending one of the second workshops.

Bruce also helped coordinate the event with co-worker and friend Rob Reid, a central helper to the event. She said the workshops were small, but this made working with the audience a lot easier and she could tell the people there were actually interested.

Reid said he was especially pleased with the turnout for the Friday evening event, which about 90 people attended.

The workshops on Saturday held approximately 15 attendees. “While I was disappointed in the numbers I kind of see it as a challenge too,” Reid said.

He also said if they want the festival to continue, they will have to come up with a few more ideas to expand the audience and perhaps change the format of the festival once again.

He said a big barrier the festival faced was parking. A lot of the community members weren’t sure how to navigate the Eau Claire campus, and those that knew weren’t sure which parking lots were open for parking on the weekends. They were also competing against nice weather and soccer practices.