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Washington County libraries host storytelling festival

Most shows geared toward adults with a few family-friendlies thrown in

Buckle up, Washington County, and get ready to experience the power of


Washington County Cooperative Library Services is hosting its 12th annual Art of the Story Festival, with storytelling, humor, laughter, history, culture and poetry at their best.

The free, week-long festival is primarily oriented toward adults. It runs April 2 through April 9 and features five professional storytellers: Kevin Kling from Minneapolis, Patrick Ball from San Francisco, Tom Swearingen from Tualatin, Amy Theberge from Portland and Val Mallinson from Beaverton. Twelve events are planned around the county.

The festival kicks off Saturday, April 2, with the second annual Story Slam Contest, where audience members are the judges.The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Beaverton City Library.

The winner of the Slam will perform alongside the pros at the festival finale set for Saturday, April 9, at the Garden Home Recreation Center in Southwest Portland. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

“A couple of our venues even reach capacity each year. We recommend arriving a few minutes early to get a great seat,” said Jodi Nielsen with Washington County Cooperative Library Services. More than 1,400 attended last year’s events, she said.

The storytelling festival has doubled in size since its debut in 2005, Nielsen said. It was always geared to grownups, but in the early years, about half its offerings were also family friendly, appropriate for children 6 and up. The child-appropriate shows have dwindled over time, with only a few sessions this year.

“The first few years of the festival we spent a bit of time educating the community that this was indeed a storytelling festival designed for adults,” she said. “It celebrates the oral tradition of storytelling that has been passed down from generation to generation.”

Now, Nielsen said, there are diehard fans who mark their calendars each year and attend numerous events during the week-long run.

“They enjoy reconnecting each year with fellow attendees and sampling the variety of tellers that WCCLS invites to participate each year,” she said.

After all, “stories connect us to our heritage — they connect us to our communities and our neighbors.”