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Chambers Fort Park to host free storytelling festival

CHAMBERSBURG >> It may come as a surprise to some that storytelling is alive and well during this digital era, but according to those affiliated with the National Storytelling Network, the art is not only still alive, but thriving. The network, comprised of some 1,600 people and organizations, is making it a mission to "spread the word."

Each year, members of the network congregate in Jonesborough, Tennessee, for the National Storytelling Festival. Acclaimed as one of the top 100 events in North America, the festival is in its 43rd year (this year's event is Oct. 2-4).

Residents of the Chambersburg area on Aug. 29 will get a taste of what occurs at the festival when Coyle Free Library welcomes three storytellers to Chambers Fort Park, off North Main and King streets near the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail.

Roy Justice, a singing historian, will be the first to take the stage at 10 a.m. Justice combines history and music of a bygone era to entertain and educate.

The Chambersburg resident said, "I grew up with a reading disability, which plagued my entire education, but nobody knew. One day, when I visited the library, I noticed people's eyes moving right to left. Out of frustration, I blinked my eyes and the whole page became clear. For me, I had discovered a way of speed reading. Prior to that, I would see a word and the letters would fall away," explained Justice, who, with his new-found skills became a voracious reader.

He is now intent upon helping others learn history in a more interesting way. "History is about people, not facts and figures, and when I studied the music of the era that was pertinent to the topic, I remembered 100 percent of what I was taking in," he said.

Justice hopes to pass on some of his knowledge to others through his unique approach. "For me the most gratifying and enjoyable part is the ability to paint pictures in people's minds, especially with the children —to witness their imaginations taking hold of the images that storytelling brings. I pose questions to help the audience figure out the answer within themselves and find that I can reach that inner child in just about everybody."

At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., featured storyteller David Novak will take the stage. The Asheville, North Carolina, resident has the distinction of winning what is equivalent to an 'Oscar,' in the storytelling world, taking home the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Network. He's shared his talents both nationally and internationally and has been featured many times at the festival in Jonesborough.

The 30-year veteran storyteller said, "What I like about this event is that it's an opportunity for all ages to come together." Novak said he draws from personal experience and uses both traditional and original material to tell stories that he often tailors to each unique audience. "The art of the storyteller is to tell the right story at the right time for the right reason."

Cynthia Keller, who spent 34 years working in the library department of the Chambersburg Area School District, will be the third storyteller to take the stage. During her years with CASD, Keller also was the "storyteller in residence." Now assistant professor and department chair of the school library at Mansfield University, Keller is looking forward to a return to her storytelling roots for the festival.

Few festivals are complete without music and at noon, Circa Blue is slated to take the stage to perform bluegrass. The five-person band based in West Virginia is looking forward to entertaining both young and old at the event.

To learn more about the fun, free family festival, visit the Facebook page at to view videos and listen to music by the performers.

If you go

WHAT: Franklin County Storytelling Festival

WHERE: Chambers Fort Park, downtown Chambersburg

WHEN: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 29

COST: Free