The annual Pike Piddler’s Storytelling Festival invited students and people from all over last Friday and Saturday for a laughing fest of hometown stories.
The festival, put on each year by the We Piddle Around Theatre in Brundidge, Alabama, featured four storytellers and musical performances before each show.
The four speakers this year were Donald Davis, Barbara McBride-Smith, Bil Lepp and Josh Goforth.
The stories told centered around themes of childhood, growing up and family.
“One of the surprising things about this festival is how it draws people, not just from this part of Alabama, but from all over the state and surrounding states as well,” Barbara McBride-Smith said. “We’ve been talking to people today from miles and miles away who’ve come to see this festival, because it’s become known as one the finer festivals in the country.”
McBride-Smith and Davis shared what goes into telling a good story.
“When we tell a story, people aren’t really listening to the story, they’re watching it,” Davis said. “They’re making a movie in their heads, so being descriptive is a really important part.
“When somebody hears you tell a story and then they wind up saying, ‘Oh, that’s just like my mom,’ or ‘That’s like my grandma,’ or ‘That’s like what I did with my sister,’ then they relate. They’ve moved into the story and they’re making it with you.”
“I think that’s really our goal,” McBride-Smith added. “It’s not so much important that people know my mom or my sister, but that through hearing the stories of those people that I grew up with and who loved me and taught me, then they remember the people in their lives who did that for them.
“And so their memories are mushrooming up out of the past, and they’re able to connect and see why that’s important. It reminds them of who they are.”
Davis said his interest in storytelling came from his family.
“I just grew up with family who sat around and told stories,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t know it was telling stories, it was just going to visit at my grandma’s house.
“Then I’d hear stuff that I’d want to go tell somebody else about, or I would hear things and say, ‘I didn’t know that about weird Uncle Harold.’ I loved listening to it, and then I would just tell other people what I’d heard and then gradually adding my own stories to it. That mostly came when people would ask questions, and the answer to the question would almost be another story.”
McBride-Smith said she also grew up in a family where storytelling was important.
“I grew up in a family that just talked in stories,” she said. “It was just a part of who I was and how I grew up.
“Then I became a librarian and worked for 44 years. One of the best things about that job was getting to connect kids to literature by telling stories. Hopefully, it would motivate them to read, but also, I could connect those stories to something in my life, to my history, and then they would go home and ask their parents about stories.”
McBride-Smith and Davis said that listening and paying attention are crucial to finding and remembering good stories.
“One of the things that happens when we’re growing up is we think that where we live is dumb and stupid and boring, and nothing ever happens, and our family is boring, and so we don’t pay attention to remembering things during that part of our life,” Davis said. “Then later on, we think, ‘Oh, I wish I’d payed attention when my grandma was talking,’ and so what we’re trying to do is help people recover some of those memories and help them pull them back up again.
“It’s those memories that tell us who we are and where we came from.”
Davis said that live storytelling has an amazing way of allowing people to connect with the story that other media simply can’t reproduce.
“When we tell stories, you get use your own mind, you don’t just see the picture someone else made,” he said. “I was communicating recently with a guy who is a filmmaker, and I said the advantage we have over filmmakers is that you only let people look at pictures you show them.
“We let people look at their own pictures.”