Storytelling school

Taste of Storytelling offers insight into 25th annual Azalea Storytelling Festival – LaGrange Daily News

Three local and visiting storytellers charmed dozens of LaGrange residents on Sunday as they introduced them to the art of storytelling during A Taste of Storytelling, an annual prelude to the 25th annual Azalea Storytelling Festival.

The event, held at First Presbyterian on Broad Street, was a smaller gathering than the annual festival held at LaGrange College’s Callaway Auditorium each March, but featured talented and witty storytellers that touched the cords of the participants.

“It whets everyone’s appetite [the festival] and get them ready for the main event,” said Azalea Storytelling Festival planning committee member Carol Cain.

A Taste of Storytelling featured regional storytellers Andy Russel and Jane Owen Cunningham and local cashier Felecia Moore, who shared renditions of experiences from their lives that left listeners laughing and amazed.

Moore, Archives Specialist at the Suber Archives at Lewis Library at LaGrange College, shared her experience interviewing a group of sisters, Annie Lee Gunn, Marie Gunn and Miss Reasie Gunn, who worked together in the LaGrange cafeteria College for over 30 years.

Moore first learned of the idea for the story from a Facebook post from Kenneth McCamey, who thanked the women for helping him throughout his time at LaGrange College.

“McCamey told me that the reason he was so grateful to them was that they would make sure that whenever he came to the cafeteria with no money…they would always make sure he always had a meal,” Moore said. “They took money from other cafeteria workers and made sure he had enough to pay for his meal.”

Moore interviewed them for his preservation project and learned not only of their close connection to the students they nurtured daily, but also of the relationship they had with a former LaGrange College president, Stuart Gunthrey, and his family. The family visited them during vacations for several years, Moore noted.

“I found it so sweet that they were dealing with Mr. McCamey. I was wondering how many other students they were taking care of [in the same way,]”, Moore said. “There were people who looked after them in much the same way.”

Cunningham, a national storyteller who has participated in several storytelling events, told two stories centered on her childhood in her rural Mississippi hometown. The first featured a young Cunningham’s dilemma of having a “simple Jane” type name, in particular that she envied her fellow freshmen for having “long and beautiful” first and last names, which she lacked .

The second detailed the close relationship between Cunningham, his older sister and his parents. In her account, Cunningham described a time when she and her sister seemed to go back and forth with low-stakes teasing that almost resulted in the sisters receiving a change from their parents. However, Cunningham closed the story with a note that her older sister always watched over her and ended most evenings sharing a bed with her.

“She looked at me from her room. We were right across from each other, and she said, ‘Jane, do you want me to read to you?’ And I slept with my big sister,” Cunningham said in closing.

With the event falling on the eve of Valentine’s Day, Russell, a national storyteller and musician, decided to first tell a love story about how his parents fell in love.

Her parents had attended high school together, Russell said, but didn’t start dating in earnest until her mother was in college and her father was in the military. After a series of dates, including a shockingly unchaperoned one, Russell’s parents got engaged and have since been married for 68 years.

“I asked my mother when the two [them] started dating, how did you [they] know it was serious,” Russel said. “She looked at me and said ‘Oh it was serious from the start.’ And then my 90 year old mother giggled like a school girl and just for a moment I saw my mother from almost 70 years ago She smiled and leaned forward and said, “I think it’s still pretty serious.”

With the full-scale event just two weeks away, Cain said the committee plans to hold the festival at full capacity in its traditional space at Callaway Auditorium. The festival was held last year in a lesser capacity at the First United Methodist Church.

The Azalea Storytelling Festival will take place on March 4, 5 and 6. The Friends of LaGrange Memorial Library sponsored A Taste of Storytelling.