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Timpanogos Storytelling Festival
Waddie Mitchell tells cowboy stories at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

ALPINE — Sam Payne is already well-known as a multitalented Utah musician and songwriter. That’s why he’s surprised and thrilled to find himself prepping for a stint at storytelling at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

“It’s tremendously exhilarating and exhausting,” Payne said in an interview with the Deseret News. “This is my first time as a teller with this festival.”

Payne has been part of smaller festivals before and usually tells stories that go along with his songs. That’s nothing new. But to go in front of an audience with veteran storytellers from across the nation is a bit more daunting.

At the Timpanogos festival, he’ll share the stage some hours with Donald Davis, Clare Murphy, Betty Ann Wylie and his father, Marvin Payne. He’ll also be part of the Last Laugh evening show.

Listeners can expect family-friendly, funny, high-energy songs and stories.

“A lot have to do with my experiences with Utah history like Butch Cassidy, Bonnie and Clyde, the Mexican colonies, my grandfather as a World War II prisoner,” Payne said. “I always somehow thread them to my own experience.”

Payne said he rarely has to embellish much because “the truth is tall enough.”

“I listened to him doing his music,” said Karen Acerson, director of the festival. “He was telling beautiful stories with his music. I said, ‘Why don’t we have him telling stories for us?’”

Acerson said the 2011 festival featured local former television news anchor Bruce Lindsay, and he was a big hit.

Since the festival is focusing on encouraging people to tell their own stories, it works well to pull in locally known folks to do just that, Acerson said.

Of course, in addition, the storyteller lineup has to include favorites like Bill Harley and Davis, who have been part of the list almost from the beginning.

Davis is assisting the festival in its outreach effort to film and teach elementary school students to tell stories.

“He’s really great,” Acerson said. “He’s helping us raise up the next generation of storytellers.”

Other favorites such as Dovie Thomason (who tells stories gleaned from her Kiowa Apache and Lakota relatives) and cowboy tale spinner Waddie Mitchell have to be brought back as well.

Others on this year’s roster include Pippa White, Murphy from Ireland, John McCutcheon, Antonio Sacre (a bilingual teller), Kim Weitkamp, the Storycrafters and Wylie, along with children who have won storytelling competitions in their schools and brave souls who step up to the microphone for the swapping grounds segments.

The festival also offers a variety of entertainment groups such as puppeteers, mimes and jugglers along with plenty of food and music.

Profits from the festival will continue to go toward building a 23,000-square-foot Center for Story next to the Orem Children’s Library on State Street in Orem. Acerson said there is still a need for more donors to step forward and help provide an additional $700,000 for the $4.4 million facility, which is designed to provide performance space not only for the storytelling festival but for dance, choral and show groups.

If you go:

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What: 23rd Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

Where: Mt. Timpanogos Park (one mile up Provo Canyon). Limited parking at Canyon View and Mt. Timpanogos Park. Free shuttles from 810 E. 600 North and 766 E. 1200 North in Orem; 4775 N. 300 West, Provo. (Laughin' Night is at the SCERA Shell, 699 S. State, Orem.)

When: Aug. 30 - Sept. 1 (Aug. 30 from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. is a smorgasbord storyteller event)

Cost: Tickets available for individual days, evening shows or all-event. See www.timpfest.org for details.

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