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Timpanogos Storytelling Festival
Karen Ashton, left, and Alan Ashton enjoy a story at a recent Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Karen Ashton is the founder of the festival.

OREM — Karen Ashton, the founder of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, which this year will reach upwards of 35,000 people, isn't content with providing three days of rich entertainment for story lovers.

She wants people to go away from the festival energized about discovering and sharing personal stories, stories that will bridge families and generations together.

"The art of storytelling has bridged people, generations and cultures together for probably as long as people have lived on the earth," Marina Spence, a festival board member said. "They shared stories. It's just so fabulous and very powerful."

Spence said from the beginning when a few hundred people gathered at the Ashton's home and backyard, it's been Karen's dream to touch people's hearts and minds and inspire them to make storytelling part of their family experience.

"I remember a couple of years ago my 6-year-old grandson just had to stop right there (in the middle of a story being told by master storyteller Donald Davis) and tell me a story. Davis's story had sparked a memory for him," Spence said.

"That's the wonder of the power of storytelling, people begin to start discussing, finding and telling our stories."

That's why Spence and others in charge of the annual festival that's earned a place for itself among the best of storytelling festivals are excited about this year's focus, "What's Your Story?"

In addition to having the opportunity to hear from 14 professional storytellers (including local KSL-TV news anchor Bruce Lindsay along with Davis, Milbre Burch, Mitch Capel, Charlie Chin, Carol Cain, Susan Klein, Corinne Stavish, Will Claflin, Teresa Clark, Beth Horner, Shelia Starks Phillips, Kevin Kling and Antonio Rocha), those attending the festival can record their own stories on the professional recording equipment at the festival.

"For $10, they can use our recording equipment on site and archive their story. There will be people there to help prep them and make it really nice," Spence said.

The opportunity coincides nicely with the five-part series produced by the festival for broadcast on BYUtv with Davis and Cain on telling personal stories, bringing the focus sharply onto individual and family stories.

Karen Acerson, president of the Storytelling Festival board, will be emceeing some of the story hours and is excited about this year's fare.

"While I was in Rome (serving an LDS temple mission with her husband), I heard they had one of my favorite storytellers who's here again this year, Kevin Kling. He's just outstanding," Acerson said.

Kling has overcome a number of physical challenges but manages to make fascinating stories out of his ups and downs, Acerson said.

She's thrilled that the festival continues to grow and reach people from all over the nation. "I love the crowds, the families who come," she said.

Acerson is also excited to see Lindsay join the storytelling lineup. "I think people will be surprised at what he can do," she said.

She's also hoping people will take time to check out the booth with information and opportunities to donate to the proposed $4.8 million Story Center for the Arts that will one day be built onto the existing Orem Children's Library.

The center will provide a stage with good acoustics and sightline not only for various storytelling events but for groups that badly need a place to perform, Acerson said.

Visitors to the storytelling festival can buy a paver or a seat to help raise the final bit of funding needed to get the center built.

The festival also offers a variety of specialty acts and performances from local musicians, jugglers, and magicians as visitors go from tent to tent for stories that enlighten, entertain and educate the young and old.

There's also an opportunity to purchase CDs and books that feature the storytellers as well as performances by winners of the youth storytelling contests in the local school districts.

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For more information, visit www.timpfest.org.

If you go:

What: 22nd Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

When: Sept. 1-3 with full day events 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and evening events including Laughin' Night, Bedtime Stories and Shivers in the Night starting at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.

Where: Mt. Timpanogos Park, Provo Canyon

Cost: weekend festival pass $40, children $25; day passes $20/$15, evening events $8

Tickets available at: www.timpfest.org, also at the door

(Free shuttles available, no parking at Mt. Timpanogos Park)

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com