Photo courtesy of Timpanogos Storytelling Festival
This story is sponsored by Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Learn more about Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

It was a dark and stormy night …

Once upon a time …

In a galaxy far, far away …

The best stories can transfix us, stay with us, make us laugh or cry — or both — and become part of a people’s consciousness or a country’s identity. They can lull anxious or overtired children (or adults …) to sleep or scare them enough to stay wide awake all night.

Anyone can tell a story, anytime, whether it’s around the water cooler or circling a campfire. But only once a year do Utahns (plus visitors who are drawn to Utah from all over) get to hear the best of the best storytellers from around the world spin their tales onstage. The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is celebrating its 29th year, and for the second year, it is being held at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.

Here are six things you might not know about this enchanting event, which this year is set for Sept. 6-8.

It’s not just for kids

Sure, the festival features puppetry and story areas just for children, and it’s all family-friendly, but stories are for grown-ups too. This is a time adults can allow themselves to just get swept away in an entertaining tale.

And the topics and styles vary widely. A performance can feel a little like stand-up comedy, but its so much more. Sometimes the stories are poignant, and sometimes the tales just reflect life — funny and touching and heroic at the same time, as festival director Jennifer Nelson notes.

The stories can be made up entirely, or they can be fact-based anecdotes the storytellers have written into an hourlong set. The performance can be songs woven in with narratives. Tales can be old as time or brand-new; they can come from familiar places or distant lands. But they’re sure to please listeners of all ages and backgrounds.

It’s settled into its fourth home

What began as a fundraiser in 1990 to build a new children’s section of the Orem Public Library has grown into a huge event that has gone through several locations and iterations. Now it’s being held at Thanksgiving Point, where the stories are spun in a gorgeous setting of lush gardens.

“If you’re just coming to the gardens and want to see the Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, this is a good time to do it,” Nelson says. “You can see the gardens and hear some great stories, all in two days.”

It’s bigger than you imagined

Nearly 40,000 people came to last year’s festival, Nelson says. People from 23 states have bought tickets to attend, and visitors have come from 73 of Utah’s cities.

The big event, Laughin’ Night, on Saturday night is just stories and fun, “a big party,” Nelson says. The festival has had 6,000 people at just that one event, so it’s been split into two areas to better accommodate attendees.

And the performers are just “the cream of the crop,” Nelson says. “They’re a big deal. They’re the top in their field, each with long lists of national awards. For example, Bill Harley is a two-time Grammy Winner”.

Storytellers are from all over the U.S., and two this year are from the U.K. Clare Murphy and Daniel Morden are renowned professionals who have captivated audiences around the world.

It’s a bargain

The storytelling festival is one of the least expensive family activities in Utah, according to Nelson. “It’s $135 for a family of six to come to a full weekend: a full event pass for every program.”

The family weekend pass is good for up to six people (tickets are required for children 3 and up), and additional family member tickets can be purchased. The pass includes all-day storytelling at Ashton Gardens both Friday and Saturday plus evening events: Look Who’s Talking, Bedtime Stories, My Favorite Stories or Shivers in the Night and Laughin’ Night.

It features more than just stories

Music, food and other activities are on the bill. Children can enjoy various kinds of puppetry, from marionettes to rod puppets, as well as ventriloquism, juggling and clowns. Kids and families can also visit the pottery tent to create personalized pots to take home.

Music is a big part of the event. Acclaimed musicians like Joshua Creek, Hot House West and Mississippi Mood play everything from jazz to bagpipes, with an authentic Swedish nyckelharpa in between. Celtic, bluegrass, roadhouse and big band — you’ll find it all here.

With all the great activities, you won’t want to leave the venue to forage for food, so some of the best vendors from the area will be on site: Costa Vida, Jamba Juice, Magleby’s Fresh, Malawi’s Pizza, Thanksgiving Point Concessions, The Trellis Café, Tucanos and Wallaby’s. You’ll also be able to enjoy fresh peaches and ice cream — without which no Timpanogos Storytelling Festival would be complete.

It’s more convenient than ever

This year, there will be FrontRunner access via shuttle that will drop off attendees at the festival. If you’re not looking forward to fighting traffic on the highways or searching for parking, this will make attending that much easier. There’s also an app, called Timpfest, to help you navigate the schedule and get around.

Come and be enchanted for the weekend or just a day or evening. There’s something for everyone at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.